Volkswagen eyes U.S. truckmaker Navistar stake-paper

FRANKFURT, June 10 Sun Jun 10, 2012 5:09pm EDT

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FRANKFURT, June 10 (Reuters) - Volkswagen is in the early stages of examining whether to take a stake in troubled U.S. truckmaker Navistar International in order to close the gap to rival Daimler, the Financial Times Deutschland reported on Sunday.

Without citing sources, the paper wrote that entering the U.S. market via Navistar would help it better compete with Daimler Trucks, the world's largest commercial vehicle maker, which owns the U.S. truck brand Freightliner.

A spokesman for Volkswagen declined to comment on the report.

Navistar reported a second-quarter loss on Thursday, hit by a hefty charge for warranty costs related to engines built in 2010 and 2011, sending its shares down as much as 28 percent to their lowest since late 2008.

Volkswagen controls Swedish truckmaker Scania, which does not have a substantial presence in the United States, as well as Germany's MAN SE, which is mainly active in Europe as well as Brazil and other emerging market economies.

The U.S. heavy truck market is largely split up between Daimler's Freightliner, Volvo with its Mack brand, Navistar's International, and Paccar's Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks.

"European trucks are built with the cab over engine so synergies are indeed harder to achieve with a U.S. truckmaker, but VW would at least gain control over a sales and distribution network in addition to the International brand," an industry source not involved in any talks told Reuters.

But if Volkswagen wants to take a stake, it will have to deal with activist investor Carl Icahn, who pushed in late 2011 and early 2012 for the company to merge with U.S. heavy truckmaker Oshkosh Corp.

Shares in Navistar gained nearly a fifth in value on Friday, after Icahn raised his stake in the company to nearly 12 percent. Also on Friday, the chairman of Italian truckmaker Fiat Industrial, Sergio Marchionne, said he was interested in the U.S. truck market.

Vertical Research Partners analyst Robert Wertheimer has named Volkswagen as a company that might be interested in bidding for Navistar.

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