Has PSA gained bargaining power?
GM may seek at least $6 billion in damages, and given it’s filed the suit under the U.S. federal RICO act, the amount “could yield a figure as high as $15 billion,” estimates Ryan Brinkman, an analyst with JPMorgan Chase.
PSA may use the lawsuit to bargain down the price of the combination, according to Commerzbank analyst Demian Flowers.
Still, he cautioned, PSA CEO Carlos Tavares’s possible use of the litigation is difficult to evaluate without knowing whether GM’s claims are credible and likely to result in damages.
Tavares honed his negotiating skills with the purchase of GM’s Opel and Vauxhall brands in 2018 for 1.3 billion euros ($1.44 billion). Since the Fiat deal was announced, intense talks have continued between the two companies, intent on getting a signed agreement.
In the meantime, analysts have questioned the value of the deal for PSA. The French carmaker’s shareholders are “taking all the risks,” Deutsche Bank’s Gaetan Toulemonde wrote earlier this week. RBC Capital Markets has said PSA is overpaying, while Citigroup called the proposal heavily skewed in Fiat Chrysler’s favor.
Could the lawsuit whip up a political backlash?
The suit describes Chrysler Group LLC -- purchased by Fiat in 2014 -- as an “iconic U.S. auto company.” Shortly after the acquisition, GM alleges, Fiat “betrayed our government’s and the U.S. auto industry’s trust and embarked on a systemic and near decade-long conspiracy to bribe senior union officials to corrupt the collective bargaining process and labor relations.”
GM’s Glidden went further. “Something’s wrong when a foreign company can come to the U.S. and say it will abide by law, but then systematically violate those laws,” he told reporters Wednesday.
“If GM ends up being able to ignite political interests in this issue, then you have a risk factor,” Flowers said.
Could U.S. regulators scuttle any FCA-PSA deal?
U.S. economic adviser Larry Kudlow has already warned that the Trump administration intends to review the planned merger. He pointed to the fact that PSA counts China’s Dongfeng among its investors, meaning the combined entity would have a Chinese shareholder.
“We have to make sure that whatever China business developments occur do not occur to the detriment of not only of our economy but our own national security,” he told Bloomberg TV.
While analysts haven’t necessarily seen China as a dealbreaker, the Trump administration has shown its willingness to take aggressive policies on trade to protect the domestic car industry. Trump last week said he will decide fairly soon on whether to impose tariffs on imports of European automobiles.
Do other U.S. lawsuits have any bearing?
GM hasn’t stated the amount of any damages it could seek against Fiat Chrysler, but U.S. litigation and regulatory fines are viewed from the European vantage point as a potentially costly endeavor. Two German examples bear out their fears.
Volkswagen Group has yet to see the end of the fallout of the U.S. probe into its diesel cars that first came to light in September 2015. The financial toll has reached $33 billion in fines and other expenses and led to consumer lawsuits and criminal cases on both sides of the Atlantic.
Drugmaker Bayer’s headache over weedkiller Roundup would certainty provide reason to pause for deal makers. CEO Werner Baumann staked his credibility on last year’s $63 billion takeover of the product’s producer, Monsanto Co. There are now more than 42,000 U.S. plaintiffs suing over Roundup’s alleged cancer-causing properties and analysts estimate a settlement could cost more than $10 billion.
The GM-FCA trial could be years away and in case of a settlement, amounts paid could be substantially less than originally sought, analysts cautioned.