Fiat denies CEO talked down Chrysler IPO image

The Italian company, majority shareholder of the Chrysler Group has denied yesterday that its CEO, Sergio Marchionne, has discouraged investors from buying shares of Chrysler.

On Oct. 2, Marchionne, who runs both Fiat and Chrysler, spoke at an investor conference in London sponsored by the investment firm Sanford C. Bernstein.

Later on, Bernstein Research senior analyst Max Warburton said in a research report “Marchionne … made some positive comments on Chrysler’s prospects. But he argued that while he believed Chrysler had an attractive future, he did not believe investing via this partial IPO would be the most attractive route for investors.”

Under rules set by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, executives of a company that is preparing an initial public offering, as Chrysler is, are not to discuss the company’s finances when the SEC reviews the offering.

Marchionne’s comments could result in an fine against the company by the SEC or force Chrysler to file an amendment to the registration statement the automaker filed Sept. 23.

Responding to the report, “Fiat S.p.A./Chrysler Group strongly denies that Sergio Marchionne … made comments regarding Chrysler that were attributed to him in a report issued earlier this week,” Fiat said. “The report characterizes Mr. Marchionne’s presentation” inaccurately.

Fiat and Chrysler declined to say what Warburton got wrong or to provide a recording or a transcript of the event. Anyway, ever since Fiat became a controlling shareholder in 2009, Marchionne has made it clear he wants the Italian automaker to own 100% of Chrysler. Fiat currently owns 58.5% of Chrysler. The UAW Retiree Medical Benefit Trust owns 41.5%.