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Great Wall Motor pours cold water on possible deal with Fiat

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Great Wall Motor Co cooled prospects for a deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, saying there are no talks and it may not pursue a takeover of the Italian-American car manufacturer's Jeep division.

[BEIJING] Great Wall Motor Co cooled prospects for a deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, saying there are no talks and it may not pursue a takeover of the Italian-American car manufacturer's Jeep division.

Commenting just a day after expressing interest, Great Wall said there are "big uncertainties" whether it will continue to study Fiat Chrysler, the Baoding-based automaker said in a filing to the Shanghai stock exchange. The Chinese company's efforts have "not generated concrete progress as of now," and it hasn't established contacts with Fiat's board.

Fiat Chrysler chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne stoked deal speculation last month when he said the automaker will evaluate whether to spin off some businesses. The Jeep marque anchors the company's mass-market car operations and has been a key focus of expansion.

Reflecting the brand's importance, Morgan Stanley estimates Jeep is worth 20.6 billion euros (S$33 billion), more than the entire group's market value.

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Shares of Great Wall, which were suspended Tuesday, declined as much as 2.6 per cent as trading resumed in Shanghai Wednesday. Markets in Hong Kong, where Great Wall shares are also traded, are shut because of a typhoon. Fiat shares ended 0.3 per cent higher on Tuesday at 11.47 euros, giving it a market value of 17.6 billion euros.

Great Wall said Monday that it was interested in buying Jeep. Fiat said there's been no approach from Great Wall on Jeep "or any other matter relating to its business."

It's unlikely Fiat would sell Jeep on its own, which would mean also taking on other brands like Dodge, Ram and Chrysler. Great Wall could also have found it tough to obtain Chinese regulatory approval due to recent restrictions on capital outflow, Deutsche Bank AG analysts Vincent Ha and Fei Sun wrote in a report Tuesday. An acquisition would also require US approval, which could be complicated under the current administration, they said.

"We cannot ignore the potential policy hurdles involved in a potential cross-border M&A," Mr Ha and Mr Sun said in the note. "The chance of a significant M&A for GWM is still remote."

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