When life gives you lemons, make limoncello

April 17, 2009

FRANCEIt may be a raucous bit of speculation gone awry, but reports in Italy that Fiat is angling to pick up General Motors’ Opel operations in Europe if the Chrysler deal falls through are too good to dismiss out of hand.

The denial from Fiat’s Chairman, Luca Cordero de Montezemolo, left a little room for intrigue in its dramatic flair. “They’ve written about it in the newspapers? No, no,” he told reporters. Fiat shares raced higher in relief. “Opel is linked to GM and Fiat has already got out of that,” said a Milan dealer, referring to a previous partnership. “Plus, it (Opel) is a clunker. Heaven forbid!”

Meanwhile, over at Chrysler, Chief Executive Bob Nardelli has been telling it like it will be. In an internal memo to staff, he said the company would cede control of its board, and ultimately senior leadership, if it completes the planned Fiat alliance. Given the Fiat deal is for only a fifth of Chrysler initially, rising eventually to 35 percent, that might seem odd. Then again, it’s the U.S. auto sector we’re talking about.

Deals of the day:

* Shares in Zurich Financial Services AG were lower after the company agreed to buy the U.S. auto insurance business of American International Group.

* Communications equipment maker Harris Corp said it agreed to buy Tyco Electronics Ltd’s wireless systems business for $675 million in cash, expanding its presence in the $9 billion market for land mobile radio systems.

* The German government’s 1.39 euro per share offer for stricken investment bank and property lender Hypo Real Estate (HRE) will run until May 4, the SoFFin financial sector rescue fund.

* British life insurer Chesnara said it had agreed to buy Swedish rival Moderna Life, and that it was on the lookout for further acquisitions in the financial services sector.

* An $87.6 million bid by a joint venture of investors Hilco Consumer Capital and Gordon Brothers Brands won the auction for the assets of bankrupt camera maker Polaroid, a federal bankruptcy judge ruled.

Christopher Kaufman; DealZone Editor

(PHOTO: A worker sweeps next to a car made from lemons and oranges during the lemon festival in Menton, southern France, February 12, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)

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