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Fiat Chrysler CEO gives upbeat outlook for year

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Chairman John Elkann said: "Despite the (fact that the) second part of 2018 included trade difficulties in some areas that the persisted in the first part of this year, we forecast a significative improvement in the second half of 2019."

[AMSTERDAM] The head of Fiat Chrysler gave an upbeat outlook for the year after a tricky end to last year and a slow start to this one, confirming it was on track to meet its targets.

Speaking at the company's annual shareholder meeting Chief Executive Michael Manley said the group's operating performance this year would exceed the record results posted in 2018.

Chairman John Elkann said: "Despite the (fact that the) second part of 2018 included trade difficulties in some areas that the persisted in the first part of this year, we forecast a significative improvement in the second half of 2019."

In February weaker-than-expected guidance for 2019 profits and industrial free cash flow raised doubts about the Italian-American carmaker's longer-term targets.

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Mr Manley has sought to persuade investors that the 2020 goals - set by late boss Sergio Marchionne - were still achievable.

"I am confident that we will successfully deliver on our guidance for this year," he said.

The CEO said industrial free cash flow this year was expected to be more than 1.5 billion euros(S$2.3 billion), down on last year due to higher capital expenditure.

At 1110 GMT Fiat Chrysler shares were up 2.6 per cent.

Mr Elkann - a scion of Italy's Agnelli family that is Fiat Chrysler's biggest shareholder - reiterated the family was prepared to take "bold and creative decisions" to help build a solid and attractive future for the carmaker.

He added the group was ready to play a part in the "new and exciting" era for the auto industry.

Recent media reports have said France's Renault could be eyeing a bid for Fiat while in March the president of Peugeot family holding company FFP said he would support a new deal and suggested Fiat Chrysler was among the options.

After the death of former CEO Sergio Marchionne last year, speculation about the future of Fiat Chrysler has intensified.

Marchionne, who had created the group by merging a troubled Fiat with Chrysler of the US, had advocated industry mergers to share the cost of building electric and self-driving cars.

Carmakers around the world are looking to tie-ups to cope with rising competition, the rise of electrification and the threat of a trade war between the United States and China.

REUTERS