Stellantis can be an industry ‘consolidator’, CFO says

PARIS, (Reuters) – Stellantis, with 61 billion euros in liquidity and strong cash flows, will keep “eyes open” for potential acquisitions and merger opportunities, the automaker’s chief financial officer said on Thursday.

“We intend to be one of the consolidators,” as the global auto industry goes through a turbulent transition to a more electrified fleet, Stellantis CFO Natalie Knight told an investor conference hosted by Wolfe Research.

Stellantis, the world’s third largest automaker by vehicle sales, is the product of the 2021 combination of Peugeot and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Prior to the FCA merger, Peugeot acquired General Motors’ European operations. Stellantis said it has cut 8.4 billion euros in costs through consolidating former Peugeot and FCA activities, beating 5 billion euro target set for 2024.

Knight said that in the near term, Stellantis is focused on smaller deals to secure software or battery materials. “We’re an M&A machine of small deals,” Knight said.

Earlier in the day, Stellantis Chief Executive Carlos Tavares and Renault CEO Luca de Meo both played down recent press speculation about a possible tie-up between the two carmakers.

Italian daily Il Messaggero said earlier this month that the French government, which is Renault’s largest shareholder and also has a stake in Stellantis, was studying plans for a merger between the two groups.

“We don’t have any projects in progress, we don’t have any discussions in progress,” Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares said during a call with media on Thursday after delivering 2023 results.

Shares in both carmakers rallied after they pledged increases in dividends and a share buy back in the case of Stellantis.

Renault CEO de Meo, said in an interview with French paper Le Figaro released late on Wednesday that large-scale consolidation was complicated, particularly during a period of industry upheaval as carmakers develop electric vehicle and hybrid technologies.

“On paper, Tesla could buy Volkswagen or Stellantis: it has the means. Why doesn’t it do it? Probably because it’s not that simple and perhaps not that interesting. A merger only succeeds if there is a will on both sides,” he said.

He said it is better to be agile at times of volatile demand and as technologies evolve.

Last week, Stellantis Chairman John Elkann also denied that the carmaker had merger plans.

Asked by media about his future at Stellantis, whose brands include Peugeot, Fiat and Jeep, Tavares said it would not be an issue until at least the middle of next year. His mandate expires in 2026.

Reporting by Gilles Gillaume; Writing by Josephine Mason; Editing by Keith Weir and David Evans