Fiat Family Value Overtakes Tesla, GM on Marchionne Overhaul

  • Fiat Chrysler, Ferrari, CNH have jumped 70% to $63.7 billion
  • Surge fueled by bets Marchionne can do ‘something spectacular’

Fiat just ain’t what it used to be, and that’s been a boon for investors, who have made the former Italian industrial conglomerate the most valuable automotive group on Wall Street amid speculation that more wheeling and dealing awaits.

“Old Fiat” now consists of three listed companies -- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Ferrari NV and CNH Industrial NV -- and their combined value rose over 70 percent this year to $63.7 billion. That’s more than 10 times the group’s worth in 2004, when Sergio Marchionne started his overhaul, and it surpasses Tesla Inc., General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co.

With Marchionne seeking to step down as Fiat Chrysler’s chief executive officer in 2019, more moves are on the way. The 65 year-old has already flagged that component operations, such as Magneti Marelli, are in line to be spun off, following the successful strategy used for truck and tractor maker CNH and supercar brand Ferrari. Alfa Romeo and Maserati may eventually follow. His ultimate goal is to streamline Fiat’s mass-market auto business to make it an easy fit for a combination with another competitor.

“There seems to be an assumption that, just because Sergio has been God’s personal gift to auto sector investors in the last dozen years, he can deliver something spectacular on his way out,” Max Warburton, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, said in a Sept. 26 report. “We’re nervous betting against this man too -- he does have a bit of form, to put it mildly.”

After Marchionne said in late July that the spin-off story for Fiat Chrysler was “not over,” Wall Street analysts increased the 12-month average target price on the stock by over 40 percent to $16.72.

“An acceleration in industry consolidation, coupled with Marchionne’s comments, refocused the market toward the sum of the parts, which underlines Fiat’s strong undervaluation,” said Massimo Vecchio, a Milan-based analyst with Mediobanca, who increased his target price to 20 euros a share from 14 euros on Sept. 25.

Fiat Chrysler fell as much as 0.6 percent in New York trading and was down 0.3 percent to $17.55 at 10:05 a.m., giving the company a market value of $26.95 billion. Shares have gained 92 percent since the beginning of the year.

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