Chrysler revs up for IPO

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 01: The gallery is reflected in a brass sign during the third round of the 2005 Chrysler Classic of Greensboro at Forest Oaks Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina on October 1, 2005. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images) Michael Cohen

DETROIT Chrysler is preparing to take a piece of itself public. 

The automaker on Monday filed paperwork with securities regulators to raise $100 million in an initial public offering. Chrysler shares haven't been publicly traded since 1998, when the company merged with Daimler AG. It is now majority-owned by Italian automaker Fiat SpA.

The shares that will be sold are owned by a United Auto Workers trust that pays for retired workers' health care. The trust requested that Chrysler sell the shares and will receive all of the proceeds from the offering.

The number of shares that will be sold and the offering price haven't yet been determined, but Chrysler set a maximum proposed offering price of $100 million. That may change as bankers gauge interest in the deal.

Chrysler sold nearly 166,000 cars and trucks last month and predicts total U.S. sales this year of more than 16 million.

Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of both Fiat and Chrysler, has made it clear that he wants to buy up the UAW's share and combine Fiat and Chrysler. But the two sides have been unable to agree on a price the shares are worth.

Last year, Fiat sued the trust in Delaware Chancery Court, saying a 3.3 percent stake it wanted to buy was worth $139.7 million. The trust contended the shares were worth $200 million more than that. In July, a judge refused to set a price and said the issue would have to go to trial, a process that could take several more years.

The trust fund needs cash to pay medical bills for thousands of Chrysler blue-collar retirees, so it has to sell the shares to another party, such as Fiat, or sell to the public. At the trust's request, Chrysler started preparing the paperwork for an IPO at the beginning of this year.

Chrysler exited the U.S. public market 15 years ago, when Daimler acquired it. But the combination was a disaster, and Daimler sold most of Chrysler to private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management in 2007.

Cerberus hoped to stanch Chrysler's losses and rebuild the company, but was stopped short by the recession, which caused U.S. car sales to plummet. Despite accepting billions in loans from the U.S. government, Chrysler filed for bankruptcy protection in April 2009.

In a deal brokered by the U.S. government, Fiat took over Chrysler's operations when it emerged from bankruptcy less than three months later. Fiat was given a 20 percent stake in Chrysler, and has gradually acquired more of the company.

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