Fiat Industrial SpA's (FI.MI) chairman plans to simplify the company's share structure in a couple of years and could move its headquarters and stock listing to the United States, according to an analyst report published Monday.
Fiat Industrial is based in Italy and listed in Milan. However, one of its divisions, tractor maker CNH Global NV (CNH), is based and listed in the U.S.
Sergio Marchionne reiterated that Iveco, the other division that makes trucks, was an asset that could be sold, according to the report by Bernstein Research, citing a Nov. 21 interview, which was confirmed by Fiat Industrial.
Marchionne agreed that a buy-out of CNH minority shareholders would simplify the shareholder structure. "It'll happen in a relatively short period of time, certainly in the next couple of years," he is quoted as saying. Fiat Industrial owns 88.9% of CNH.
Marchionne also said it would be technically simple to use CNH for a single listing.
On moving its headquarters outside Italy — a sensitive issue in its home country — Marchionne cited the cost of being in a country struck by the sovereign-debt crisis.
"If ... the financial capability of Fiat Industrial (is) being negatively impacted by the uncertainty (in Italy) then I think it's only proper to look for alternatives," he said.
Marchionne described Iveco as a "saleable" asset. "If somebody were to show up and make an offer for a piece of this asset that is so anomalous ... I don't think anybody inside the house is going to resist it."
Marchionne described Daimler AG's (DAI.XE) interest voiced last year as genuine as the German auto maker was the only credible buyer in the European truck industry with sufficient financial muscle for a deal of this magnitude. Other potential bidders would be Asian companies wanting to expand in Europe, he said.
As regards succession at Fiat Industrial, Marchionne showed preference for an internal candidate, but he said he was not leaving anytime soon.
Marchionne said he would put his family's money on Fiat Industrial rather than Fiat SpA (F.MI), the sister car company from which Fiat Industrial was spun off in January.
"Industrial is a much more rewarding business ... It has incredible capacity in terms of margin and cash generation, and it doesn't blow your capital," he said.
But he said the founding Agnelli family would remain long-term investors in both companies.
At 1121 GMT, Fiat Industrial shares were up 1.95% at EUR6.79. Bernstein has an outperform rating on the stock and a EUR10.50 target price.