Italian PM welcomes Fiat Chrysler merger with PSA, says jobs crucial

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MILAN (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte welcomed the planned merger of Fiat Chrysler with its French rival PSA in an newspaper interview on Thursday, but said protecting jobs would be a top priority.

“It can be a great opportunity for Italy and Europe,” Conte told the daily La Stampa. He said the deal to create the world’s fourth-largest automaker and develop environmentally friendly models would help the integration of European industry.

Speaking ahead of a meeting between Fiat Chrysler’s (FCA) management and Italian union representatives on Friday, Conte said the deal should have no negative impact on jobs.

“The guarantee that employment levels will be protected and maintained has been put down in black and white in the joint statement by FCA-PSA,” he said.

“For this government, protecting job stability is crucial,” he added.

FCA has said it expects 3.7 billion euros ($4.1 billion) in annual synergies from the merger with no plant closures.

Unions have also welcomed the decision of the two automakers to include two union representatives - one from Italy and one from France - on the 11-strong board of the merged group.

Analysts expect the companies’ factories in Europe, which stretch from Portugal to Britain, to draw scrutiny because they have overlapping brands and underutilized factories.

FCA’s underused plants in Italy employ some 58,000, more than a quarter of its workforce.

Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Mark Potter