Fiat steals union playbook

April 15, 2009

Of all the shotgun weddings out there, Fiat’s proposed partnership with Chrysler is the one looking most likely to end in a gory mess. Adding to the drama — and rolling out another irresistible cliché — the whole thing is turning into a game of chicken.

With two weeks to go before Uncle Sam pulls the plug on Detroit’s third wheel, Fiat’s chief warned Chrysler’s unions that he would walk away unless they agreed to cut labor costs.

Sergio Marchionne told the Globe and Mail newspaper a deal on a partnership had only a 50-50 chance of success because of lack of progress in talks with unions. Canadian unions are especially resistant, he said.

You deal or we walk. Isn’t that what the union is supposed to say?

Deals of the Day:

* Sanofi-Aventis has agreed to buy private U.S. cancer specialist BiPar Sciences Inc. for up to $500 million in the latest bolt-on acquisition by the French drugmaker.

* British publishing group Pearson is buying Wall Street English, one of China’s top English language-training companies, for $145 million in cash to cement its position in a critical growth market.

* Italian car maker Fiat SpA will abandon partnership talks with ailing Chrysler unless unions agree to cuts in labor costs, Fiat Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said.

* China said a review of the $1.6 billion bid by Japan’s Mitsubishi Rayon to buy unlisted British chemicals maker Lucite International was moving ahead, despite reports the deal had hit a snag.

* EBay Inc plans to spin off its Skype unit, acknowledging that the Web telephone service does not fit with the rest of the company, in an indictment of former CEO Meg Whitman’s acquisition strategy.

* Coal miner Mongolia Energy, which transformed itself from a technology company to a mining firm in 2007, is eyeing weaker rivals as possible takeover targets amid the global financial crisis.

* Lion Capital is selling a stake of up to 5 percent in bakery group Aryzta through Credit Suisse, the Swiss bank said on Wednesday.

* Kimberly-Clark said it acquired Jackson Products Inc, a privately-held safety products company, in a cash transaction.

* Nova Chemicals shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favor of Abu Dhabi-based International Petroleum Investment Corp’s $500 million takeover of the raw plastics manufacturer, which comes amid a major downturn in the petrochemical industry.

* South Korea’s Daewoo Electronics Corp is set to pick potential buyers for its non-core businesses, including TV manufacturing, by next week as it restructures to focus on appliances, its chief executive said.

* Total does not expect to increase its offer for UTS Energy, Mike Borrell, president of the French oil multi-national’s Canadian subsidiary, told the Financial Post.

* Irish Life & Permanent is considering a reorganization of its business units that could see its banking arm, permanent tsb, being spun off, the Irish Independent newspaper reported.

* India’s NMDC Ltd is in talks with African firm Kopano Ke Matla Investment Co for a joint venture that could bid for coal and iron ore mines in Africa, the chairman of the state-run miner said.

(PHOTO: Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne smiles before he addresses the audience at the “Forum of the 100″ at the University in Lausanne May 22, 2008. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse)

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