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Agnellis position for more M&A after Fiat Industrial deal
MILAN (Reuters) - Fresh from agreeing a merger of truckmaker Fiat Industrial SpA (FI.MI) with U.S. farm equipment maker CNH Global NV (CNH.N), Italy's powerful Agnelli family may already be positioning itself for a further deal to cement its position in the global industrial machinery sector.
The Agnelli's holding company Exor, likely to emerge from the FI-CNH deal with a commanding 45 percent stake in the merged group, may be maneuvering to increase its holding to 50 percent or more to put itself in an even stronger position to dictate further acquisitions.
"It looks like Exor's target is to fully control the (merged) company and it is expected go to 50 percent or more, buying a small stake or allowing a potential partner to do so," a source close to the matter said.
A second source confirmed Exor wanted to fully control FI-CNH ahead of possible future M&A deals, but didn't want to comment about the Agnelli's family holding company targeting a 50 percent stake of the voting rights.
Fiat Industrial Chairman Sergio Marchionne has already been asked what target could be next after the CNH deal.
"We are interested in building our presence in the U.S. truck market," Marchionne told reporters when asked if FI was interested in bidding for truckmaker Navistar International Corp (NAV.N).
Asked if there were specific talks between the two companies, Marchionne said: "None that I am willing to share."
Shares of Navistar rose nearly 20 percent on Friday, after Marchionne's comments coupled with stakebuilding by Carl Icahn, a billionaire investor known for shaking up companies and advocating disposals.
For Exor, the FI-CNH deal is the latest episode of a long-running plan by the Agnellis to restructure their industrial holdings, marked by the demerger of automaker Fiat SpA (FIA.MI) and its subsequent tie-up with Chrysler.
Exor holds 33.6 percent of FI (including Fiat's 3.2 percent stake), which with the help of a "loyalty share" under the CNH deal will translate to around a 45 percent stake of the voting rights of the new company.
The stake could increase further by FI buying extra shares or inviting a future partner do so.
FI announced its plan to merge with CNH by the end of the year on May 30, creating a global heavyweight industrial machinery group and shifting its focus towards North America. The new group will be listed on Wall Street and on a European market.
FI is the most valuable of Exor's four core holdings, which also include Swiss-based inspection services company SGS (SGSN.VX) and commercial real estate broker Cushman & Wakefield, as well as Fiat and Chrysler.
Yet FI has lacked appeal to outside investors and the Agnellis may feel the need for a new tack if they are to build on the CNH deal with further acquisitions while still retaining control.
"Fiat Industrial stock is not very attractive, but with the FI-CNH's main listing on Wall Street we will have a completely different situation," the source added. "An all-share link-up with a competitor will be easier and won't dilute Exor too much."
(Additional reporting by Jennifer Clark; Editing by Lisa Jucca and David Holmes)
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