Will European automaker Fiat Chrysler (NYSE:FCAU) team-up with a rival as a means holding on in a tough environment? Or, have all its potential partners soured on the idea, fearing any union involves too much drama? It’s a dilemma you have to consider before investing in Fiat Chrysler stock.
It’s a question current and prospective owners of Fiat Chrysler stock have been asking themselves for weeks. But, it’s a question that won’t be answered for a while if it’s answered at all.
Even the parties that are supposed to be involved in a potential deal aren’t entirely sure of what they themselves want to do, let alone what their competitors are thinking. Betting on one particular outcome might be an ill-advised action at this point.
Here’s a rundown of the most plausible outcomes, and the ramifications of each.
4 Possibilities for Fiat Chrysler Stock
Not unlike the U.S. automobile market, Europe’s car sales growth is also slowing down in step with slowing economic growth. Moody’s as well as LMC Automotive both see car sales growing only 1% in Western Europe this year.
The headwind is prompting several European automobile companies to consider alternative arrangements that will bolster bottom lines, even if top-lines are set to stagnate. Fiat Chrysler is no exception to this possibility. However, Fiat Chrysler has also found itself in the middle of something of a soap opera as it and its competitors work to determine what its optimal arrangements might be.
As it stands right now, there are four reasonably plausible outcomes that run across the entire spectrum of possibilities.
1.Renault and Nissan Acquire Fiat
The most recent speculation isn’t exactly a new one to owners of Fiat Chrysler stock. That is Renault (OTCMKTS:RNLSY) and Nissan Motor (OTCMKTS:NSANY) may seek a partnership with Fiat, if not an outright acquisition.
Such a deal would have to clear several hurdles though, chief among them being the fact that Renault and Nissan remain two distinct entities themselves and may well remain that way. Though the two outfits work together, Nissan has always resented Renault’s and France’s control of the partnership.
Further straining the relationship is the fact that Carlos Ghosn, former chairman of Renault and Nissan, was arrested in Tokyo late last year on charges of financial misconduct.
Underscoring the lack of communication between Nissan and Renault: When Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa was asked if he was aware its European partner was mulling a bid for Fiat, he replied “not at all.”
2.Peugeot Buys Fiat Chrysler
It’s a relatively new possibility, but there’s a chance European rival Peugeot (OTCMKTS:PUGOY) may be interested in Fiat.
Such a pairing has the support of at least some analysts. Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst commented “PSA [Peugeot] is essentially an EU pure play as things stand (roughly 90 percent of consolidated unit sales in EU) so an acquisition of a company with a broader reach would make strategic sense.”
New CEO Carlos Tavares has also confirmed he’s interest in dealmaking, including partnerships.
3.Hyundai or Geely Could Acquire Fiat
They’re fringe possibilities, but possibilities nonetheless. In fact, before Renault, Nissan or Peugeot came (back) into the picture, Geely and Hyundai (OTCMKTS:HYMTF) both planned bids.
Geely’s Li Shufu spoke with Fiat before making a $9 billion investment in Germany’s Daimler (OTCMKTS:DDAIF). Hyundai, meanwhile, was reportedly interested in Fiat in the middle of last year (a rumor Hyundai denied) but a possibility that makes some sense all the same. The buzz was that Hyundai was simply waiting for the price of Fiat Chrysler stock to sink.
Acquisition chatter since then has worked against Hyundai, if it was truly interested.
4. Nothing Happens
Finally, as uninspiring as it may be, there’s a distinct possibility that absolutely nothing will change for Fiat Chrysler in the foreseeable future.
Bernstein analyst Max Warburton is a doubter. He noted following word that Nissan/Renault may be interested “[T]his idea is half-baked, politically almost impossible to deliver and even if achieved, the resulting company would be unmanageable.”
Warburton went on to say, “We hope it is a banker’s fantasy rather than a serious proposal from the key decision makers.”
Commerzbank analyst Demian Flowers said, “[I]t’s far from clear that the alliance can sort their internal disagreements out in time to be in the running for FCA [Fiat Chrysler].”
That doesn’t necessarily preclude a deal outside of a pairing with Renault, with or without Nissan. But, Warburton made a valid point about the sheer difficulty of any international dealmaking.
“We live in an era of de-globalisation and heightened anxieties about national and regional identities. This applies to corporations as well as politicians and individuals,” he said.
Bottom Line for Fiat Chrysler Stock
The sheer number of seemingly plausible possibilities is a red flag in and of itself.
In the absence of verified discussions or even credible suggestions, the market has a way of filling in the blanks on its own, sometimes reading things into hints that aren’t exactly being dropped. Ideas turn into suggestions. Suggestions turn into headlines. Headlines turn into expectations. Often times, they simply don’t pan out.
Whatever’s in the case, owning FCAU stock solely in anticipation of a buyout or partnership remains an ill-advised idea. If it’s not worth investing in on its own, it’s unlikely another carmaker wants to tackle an integration project, when past cross-border integrations haven’t gone terribly well.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. You can learn more about James at his site, jamesbrumley.com, or follow him on Twitter, at @jbrumley.