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Fiat CEO signals intention to increase Chrysler share

Fiat, the Italy-based conglomerate controlled by the Agnelli family, could increase its share in US car company Chrysler to up to 50%, according to remarks made by its non-family CEO Sergio Marchionne.

"I don't know whether it is likely, but it is possible that we will go over 50% if Chrysler decides to go to the market in 2011," Marchionne said, according to the Financial Times. Although he was careful to note a merger between the two companies was not under consideration.

Marchionne made the comments on 3 January at an event to mark the first day of trading for the newly demerged Fiat, which split its car companies from its other industrial businesses. Fiat brands include Fiat, Ferrari and Maserati while Fiat Industrial covers the Iveco trucks unit, which makes farm and construction equipment.

Fiat announced in September 2010 it intended to split the conglomerate into two separate companies, something Marchionne had long been calling for. (Continue reading here) Fiat shareholders including the founding family were given equal holdings in the newly created Fiat Industrials. 

"The demerger of the group and the creation of two separate entities will finally solve a strategic issue that has for years been a thorn in the side of Fiat," Marchionne said when the split was first announced. 

Fiat took a 20% share in Chrysler in 2009 when the US carmaker went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Marchionne has the backing of the founding family, headed by fifth-generation Fiat chairman John Elkann (pictured) who is also chairman of the family's holding company Exor.

Elkann was chosen by his grandfather, the former Fiat chairman Gianni Agnelli, to lead the family business after the untimely death of Elkann's cousin, Giovanni Agnelli, from cancer at just 33. Many in Italy view the family as the country's unofficial royalty and their wealth is estimated to be more than €3 billion.

Fiat has been under the control of the Agnellis since it was founded in 1899 and had 2009 revenues of €50.1 billion. 

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