Navistar mulls asset sales, no deep discounts: interim CEO

NEW YORK Wed Oct 31, 2012 3:52am EDT

Lewis Campbell speaks during an interview at the Navistar office in Lisle, Illinois, October 4, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Young

Lewis Campbell speaks during an interview at the Navistar office in Lisle, Illinois, October 4, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. truck and engine maker Navistar International Corp (NAV.N) is willing to look at the possible sale of any part of its business as it tries to return to profitability, but it is not willing to consider fire-sale prices for its assets, interim Chief Executive Lewis Campbell said on Monday.

Campbell, who replaced CEO Dan Ustian in August, said he came out of retirement because he was excited about the prospect of turning around an iconic American business. The company is about halfway through an analysis of every business it operates, he said.

"Every business we have, like it or not, is going to go through the eye of the ROIC needle," Campbell told an auto industry conference in Las Vegas that was monitored via the Internet. ROIC refers to returns on invested capital. Any business that does not improve within a reasonable time, "we might try to monetize it," Campbell said.

The company is cutting costs and weighing asset sales, targeting savings of up to $175 million next year. [ID:nL2E8K620T] It has also sold 10 million common shares to raise funds for capital spending and other initiatives, creating a cushion in case of a severe slump in demand. [ID:nL3E8LO5UQ]

Navistar had struggled to win U.S. regulatory approval for a new diesel engine technology that it dropped in August, saying it would buy engines from Cummins Inc (CMI.N). The Navistar engine design could not be saved, Campbell said he concluded early in the review of the business.

Earlier this month, Navistar agreed to appoint three new members to its board, avoiding a proxy fight with activist investors Carl Icahn and Mark Rachesky, who have demanded changes. Icahn had criticized the company's product strategy, called its appointment of the new CEO "ill-advised" and had demanded representation on the board.

Campbell said his engineering background and experience running a GM truck division gave him the confidence to tackle a corporate turnaround. "I've seen this movie before," he said. "How do you turn down an opportunity to turn around an American icon? You really can't."

Campbell, who was hired as interim CEO and executive chairman, has said he plans to stay on for two or three years. He spent 17 years at Textron (TXT.N), during which the Cessna plane maker was an active buyer and seller of assets, and before that more than two decades at General Motors Co (GM.N).

Navistar has laid off or bought out some white-collar workers, is reducing engineering spending, and will review whether it needs all 19 of its North American factories at a time when a shaky U.S. economy is hitting demand for trucks.

The Lisle, Illinois-based company, which also makes Monaco recreational vehicles, school buses and military vehicles, may take further steps beyond those already outlined if the U.S. economy turns out to be "abnormally lousy" next year, the interim CEO said.

"We have plenty of cash so we're not fire-saling" assets, Campbell said, adding that Navistar would likely end its quarter with about $1.025 billion in cash, the top of its forecasted range or somewhat above it. (Reporting by Nick Zieminski in New York; Editing by David Gregorio and Prudence Crowther)

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