Saturday, February 24, 2007

GM in talks to buy Chrysler Group

Reports: GM in talks to buy Chrysler Group
Sources say the No. 1 automaker may buy DaimlerChrysler's struggling auto unit, according to reports.
February 16 2007: 4:05 PM EST

NEW YORK ( -- General Motors is in talks to buy DaimlerChrysler AG's struggling Chrysler Group in its entirety, according to several reports.

According to the reports, sources in Germany and the United States said high-level talks between GM (down $0.14 to $36.30, Charts) and DaimlerChrysler (up $2.83 to $73.08, Charts) executives are taking place.

Its German parent confirmed Wednesday it is looking at strategic options for the North American unit. When asked if those options included a sale or spin-off of the unit, DaimlerChrysler Chairman Dieter Zetsche responded "this means all options are on the table."

Chrysler Group announced Wednesday it would be cutting about 13,000 workers and closing plants over the next three years as a part of a restructuring plan aimed to restore profits by next year.

Talks of an alliance between GM and DaimlerChrysler was first reported recently in Germany's Manager-Magazin.

Other unnamed sources said to be familiar with the discussions confirmed the reports Friday for Reuters and the industry newspaper Automotive News.

DaimlerChrysler employed J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. to consider options for the Chrysler Group, to help the automaker explore strategic options, according to trade newspaper.

But others are also skeptical on whether the discussions are real.

"This would be an at least $5 billion plus deal and GM is not that liquid right now," John Casesa said, an automotive analyst with Casesa Strategic Advisors, told CNN. "I'm not convinced at all and I think it's unlikely."

Other experts contacted by said that while a GM purchase of Chrysler appeared unlikely, they could see other buyers emerging.

"The challenge is who would be a buyer," David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, said Wednesday of a possible sale of Chrysler. "Maybe a Chinese company that really wants entrance into U.S. market or Renault-Nissan would see it fit with its strategy. But it's tough."

Chrysler's Valentine's Day massacre

Carlos Ghosen, the CEO of both French automaker Renault and Japanese automaker Nissan (Charts), had expressed interest in finding a North American partner to join the alliance between his two companies. Talks between GM and those two automakers last year were abandoned without any agreement.

Kevin Tynan, auto analyst at Argus Research, said Wednesday he believes Chrysler will end up being sold due to pressure from DaimlerChrysler's shareholders to undo the 1998 merger, but he thinks a sale to a private equity group is more likely than a combination with another automaker.

"There's value to those brands," he said. "I think relative to Ford Motor (Charts), there's less dead weight. Nine years later, it's probably the right thing to do. I think there's a feeling in Germany that it's time to cut bait."

Officials for DaimlerChrysler and GM issued no comments on the reports.

DaimlerChrysler has long tried to reverse the drop in sales with previous cost-cutting moves but slipped into the No. 4 spot last year behind Toyota (up $0.21 to $136.98, Charts) in the United States.

Other reports have suggested that talks between Chrysler and GM were more limited in scope than a full merger. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the two were in talks to jointly develop a large SUV that would be similar to the Chevrolet Suburban, a product that Chrysler Group doesn't have in its lineup. The New York Times had a similar report Friday. Neither publication had their own reports on the potential merger talks as of mid-day Friday.

CNN's Katie Byron contributed to this report

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