ITALY: Fiat debt grows as recovery spending mounts
Fiat debt grew by about EUR1bn in 2012 as European car sales fell 14%, leaving the carmaker ever more dependent on strong growth at its Chrysler US unit in the US.
As Fiat's management moves to increase spending on new models in Europe and the US, investors are keeping a close watch on its debt for signs that cash-burning European operations are straining the group's ability to invest in products that will win customers in the future, Reuters reported.
Fiat said it did not expect business conditions to change in 2013 from its previous forecasts and that its home region "continues to present significant levels of uncertainty".
Fiat's net debt rose about 18% to 6.54bn euros ($8.81bn) during 2012, a better performance than nearly all analysts had expected, according to the news agency.
It will not to pay a 2012 dividend. The company's board said it did not recommend a dividend payment "given the company's desire to maintain a high level of liquidity".
Chief executive Sergio Marchionne and Fiat chairman John Elkann unveiled a newly retooled factory outside Turin where the automaker will build Maserati sedans for export.
Chrysler is also spending on new models and expects cash flow to slow to about $1bn in both 2013 and 2014, from $2.2bn in 2012. Marchionne said.
Chrysler is to sell 16 Fiat and Alfa Romeo models through its North American dealer network by 2016, Reuters noted.
In both 2013 and 2014, Chrysler plans to introduce eight new or significantly refreshed models in North America, including an Alfa Romeo roadster and the Fiat 500L.
But Chrysler said this week it was pushing back the launch dates of six vehicles, two by two years.
It will delay by two years to 2014 the launch of a Fiat-built Ram truck model, expected to be a small commercial van, and an unnamed Jeep model, to 2015.
Chrysler also said it would drop plans to make three Fiat-built Chrysler small cars and two Fiat-made Dodge brand cars in 2013.
According to Reuters, total available liquidity for the group was EUR20.8bn, slightly higher than at the end of 2011.
The news agency said the size of the group's cash reserve is also being closely monitored since Marchionne has said he intends to spend the company's cash to increase Fiat's stake in Chrysler from its current 58.5%.
Fiat said its full-year loss before interest and taxes in Europe, where car sales are entering their sixth year of decline, was EUR738m and has said it does not expect to break even in Europe before 2015.
In contrast, Chrysler has reported a rise of 68% in fourth-quarter net income, to $378m from $225m a year ago, as its vehicle sales rose 12%, outpacing the 10% gain in the broader U.S. car market.