Fiat says arrivederci to Italy

The maker of Fiat, Lancia, Alfa Romeo and Maserati is no longer an Italian company

Photograph: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty

Photograph: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty

Wed, Aug 6, 2014, 01:00

The company that most represented postwar Italy to the world in the 1960s and 1970s has abandoned the country. Fiat, the maker of Fiat, Lancia, Alfa Romeo and Maserati, is no longer an Italian company.

Fiat shareholders on Friday formally agreed to abandon its traditional and emotional home in the Italian industrial centre of Turin to merge the company with Chrysler, creating the world’s seventh-largest car company.

The move will see the birth of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which will be legally based in the tax haven of the Netherlands, be listed on the New York Stock Exchange and have its head office in London.

After Fiat’s 115 years as the industrial and cultural driver of life in Turin, chief executive Sergio Marchionne won shareholder approval for the merger and move during an egm.

Even so, Marchionne is on record as pledging to keep all present Fiat, Maserati and Alfa Romeo factories in Italy open, and Fiat has been definite about keeping its admin and technical sectors in Turin; Marchionne has also said he will rehire 30,000 Fiat Group plant workers.

He will keep them occupied with traditional Fiat Group products, as well as the Jeep Renegade and other Chrysler models.

“With this meeting beings gins the future of our company,” John Elkann, Fiat chairman and grandson of the renowned Fiat figure Gianni Agnelli, said at Fiat’s last Italian shareholder’s meeting, on Friday.

Despite fears in the Italian press that the Agnelli family, whose holding company, Exor, owned 30.04 per cent of Fiat, would use the merger and the NYSE listing as a chance to sell out of the struggling company, Elkann insisted it was staying.

“I want to confirm today my own and my family’s commitment to continue to support FCA, even more so now that there are big opportunities on the horizon. For the first time we have a different perspective: we don’t need to play a game of survival,” he said.

The meeting wasn’t completely smooth sailing, with about 8 per cent of Fiat shareholders voting against the merger, but it easily achieved the two-thirds majority required. If exit rights (worth €7,727 per share) are taken up by all those who voted no, however, the merger could still fail, with Fiat setting a €500 million ceiling to pay them out.

All Fiat shareholders will be able to swap each Fiat share they hold for an FCA share, and most will also receive special voting shares that won’t be listed.

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