MILAN Fiat FIA.MI could exercise an option as early as Monday to buy a further 3.3 percent stake in Chrysler held by U.S. healthcare trust VEBA, Fiat's chairman said.
"We'll see on Monday, we have done it (exercising options) in the past and will continue doing what we have done," chairman John Elkann said on the sidelines of a conference.
Fiat, which snapped up a worthless Chrysler in 2009, owns 58.5 percent of the U.S. group with a right to buy 16.6 percent more from VEBA via a series of options on 3.3 percent stakes.
So far Fiat has called in two of the six-monthly options but has not taken ownership of the shares because of a legal dispute.
The price of the stakes was determined under a formula worked out in 2009 but Fiat and VEBA have since ended up in a Delaware court arguing about the price of Chrysler.
The Italian carmaker has the right to call a third option starting July 1.
At the same time Fiat is carrying out talks to buy the whole of VEBA's 41.5 percent stake to take full control of Chrysler with a view to merging the two companies and listing on the New York Stock Exchange.
Fiat believes the Chrysler stake it does not already own is worth about $2 billion, while VEBA puts its value at twice that amount.
Merging the two companies would create the world's seventh-largest auto group by sales.
It would also give Fiat access to Chrysler's cash flows to help it make investments in new models to better compete.
(Reporting by Stefano Rebaudo and Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)