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Visteon CEO Rules Out Sale of Halla Climate to Mando

Visteon Corp. Chief Executive Officer Tim Leuliette ruled out selling control of the company’s climate-control business that has been sought by South Korea’s Mando Corp.

“First of all, the business isn’t for sale,” Leuliette said in reference to Halla Visteon Climate Control Corp., which is 70 percent owned by Visteon, in an interview today at a forum in Shanghai. “Secondly, I haven’t heard from any of them and I have been in this seat now nine months.”

Mando, South Korea’s third-largest maker of auto parts, said in August it may offer to buy the 70 percent stake in former affiliate Halla Climate. Mando Chairman Chung Mong Won has been seeking to rebuild the Halla Group, which went bankrupt in 1997 after years of overexpansion saddled it with at least 6.5 trillion won ($5.8 billion) in debt.

Visteon is exploring other options, including one involving the Van Buren Township, Michigan-based company reducing its stake of the unit to a percentage that’s “something less than 70 and more than 51,” Leuliette said, without elaborating.

Asian Listing

Halla Climate has gained 31 percent in Seoul trading since Jan. 10, when the company said it would buy Visteon’s automotive climate businesses. It closed at a record high of 29,000 won on April 10.

“As of now, Mando has no plans to buy Halla Climate as it is currently overpriced due to the recent M&A,” Park Jong Cheol, a spokesman at Mando, said by phone today. “If the price returns to normal, we may reconsider purchasing the shares.”

Mando shares declined 3.7 percent to close at 73,800 won in Seoul trading. The stock has tumbled 26 percent in the past four days after it said it would help bail out fellow Halla Group affiliate. Visteon fell 1 percent to $53.32 at 9:44 a.m. New York time.

Visteon is also considering an Asian listing of its shares, Leuliette said. Hong Kong and Singapore are “reflective of western access” and have “good governance,” he said.

On earnings, Leuliette said results for the latest quarter will “speak for themselves” when they’re reported next month.

“I think the market will be pleased with this commitment,” he said.

China Role

China will continue to play a larger role as a critical market for investment, Leuliette said. The CEO sees continued growth in the country and expects the China business to exceed $1 billion of growth this year, he said.

The company expects its climate business to grow at least 10 percent after expanding at a 15 percent compound annual growth rate over the last decade, Leuliette said today.

Visteon, spun off from Ford Motor Co. in 2000, has tried to shed lower-margin units to focus on faster-growing Asian operations. The company exited bankruptcy in 2010.

Leuliette ascended to CEO after serving as interim chief following the ouster of Don Stebbins in August. He was part of a bloc of Visteon directors who favored revamping the company, which hasn’t been able to generate consistent profits under three CEOs before Leuliette.

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