Oct 13, 2014 12:56 PM

Fiat Chrysler bounce around in 1st day on NYSE

The Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) Shares of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles bounced between negative and positive Monday after making their debut on the New York Stock Exchange, and they edged higher toward the market close.

The newly merged company's stock, traded under the symbol FCAU, opened at $9 and rose quickly to $9.55 before falling much of the day. But they recovered, rising 2 cents from the opening to $9.02 shortly before the market closed.

The company began trading in New York to raise its profile and give U.S. investors a chance to own part of the Chrysler comeback story. The stock will also trade in Milan, Italy.

Chrysler is now profitable, driven by a rebound in U.S. sales, five years after a trip through bankruptcy and a takeover by Fiat orchestrated by the U.S. government. But that performance is offset by Fiat's struggles in Europe. Fiat Chrysler is the seventh-largest auto company in the world, and Marchionne wanted the merger to consolidate costs and technology to compete with larger global automakers.

Fiat Chrysler has an ambitious goal to grow sales 60 percent to more than 7 million cars and trucks by 2018. Combined, the companies sold 4.4 million cars and trucks last year, compared with 6.3 million for Detroit rival Ford. Toyota was the global leader with sales of 9.98 million vehicles.

Marchionne, in television interviews during the day, said that auto stocks in general are under-valued by investors. He told CNBC that the same naysayers who thought Chrysler would go out of business five years ago are the ones doubting his sales projections now.

On Bloomberg Television, he said a new midsize Alfa Romeo will come to the U.S. in June of 2015, without giving details. Alfa's first U.S. vehicle in years, the 4C sports car, is headed for the U.S. now, he said.

Only a limited number of shares went on sale Monday, mainly from Italian stockholders. The company released details of a new share structure Monday, swapping Fiat SpA shares 1-for-1 for stock in the new company. The company also holds 35 million shares and could sell them later in the year.

Marchionne said the company will certainly tap the debt markets and could also sell more stock to raise cash to protect itself from a downturn.

In an interview, Morningstar senior analyst Richard Hilgert said Fiat Chrysler faces macroeconomic troubles in Europe and South America, its two largest markets outside the U.S. Also, earnings likely will look smaller as the company switches from international to U.S. accounting standards, he said.

"Fiat Chrysler's stock is not for the faint of heart," said in a note to investors.

The stock's debut in New York comes at an inopportune time. The market, and auto stocks in particular, took hits last week, with both General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. shares hitting 52-week lows.

The combined Fiat Chrysler is counting on expanding sales at Jeep, Alfa-Romeo and Maserati and a revival of the Chrysler brand to place it firmly in the top ranks of global automakers.

Fiat owned 58.5 percent of Chrysler last year, and the two companies were combined in January when it bought the rest from a trust fund that pays health care bills for union retirees.

Marchionne, 62, who has led Chrysler's restructuring and combination with Fiat, said last week that he plans to stay with the company through 2018. He and Chairman John Elkann are scheduled to ring the closing bell at the NYSE.


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