Fiat Chrysler’s CEO opens door to Jeep, Ram spinoff – USA TODAY
In a single word Wednesday, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne dropped a bombshell.
Marchionne was asked whether the automaker’s Jeep and Ram brands, either together or separately, could be spun off into a separate, standalone company.
“Yes,” Marchionne said.
The surprise came in questions after Fiat Chrysler said it earned a profit of $698.2 million during the first quarter, a 34% gain compared with the same period a year ago, driven primarily by profits in Europe and gains by its Maserati brand. Its global revenue increased 4% to $30.2 billion compared to the same period last year.
Shares shot up to close Wednesday at $11.65, up $1.11 or 10.5%.
The idea of the selling of Jeep and Ram is likely jarring to workers and many others but is not out of the question for Marchionne, the mercurial CEO of the Italian-American automaker who has engineered a number of mergers, acquisitions and spin-offs.
Marchionne, who engineered Fiat’s acquisition of a controlling stake in Chrysler in 2009, spent five years integrating those two automakers into a single, global automaker.
But along the way, Marchionne also split Fiat and Fiat Industrial, the Italian automaker’s former agricultural manufacturing division, into two companies. That happened in 2011; now CNH Industrial has annual sales of more than $25 billion and is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
Marchionne also spun Ferrari into a standalone company in 2016. Ferrari, also traded on the New York Stock Exchange, trades at more than $75 per share and generates more than $3.4 billion in annual revenue and close to $435 million in net income.
Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas, the analyst who asked Marchionne about spinning off Ram and Jeep, dropped the issue after one question and moved on to another topic.
But it’s not the first time that Jonas has explored the issue. In January, Jonas estimated that Jeep’s value on a standalone basis would be $22 billion, which was more than the market capitalization of Fiat Chrysler at the time.
Jeep has been growing rapidly in recent years. Its sales have climbed from less than 500,000 in 2008 to more than 1.4 million last year.
Marchionne set a goal in 2014 for Jeep’s annual sales to exceed 2 million SUVs annually by 2018, and the brand is on track to meet that goal, Fiat Chrysler Chief Financial Officer Richard Palmer said Wednesday.
Jonas also values Ram at $11.2 billion, Maserati at $3.5 billion, and parts and components divisions Magnetti Marelli and Teskid at $3.5 billion. Fiat Chrysler has its headquarters in London.