What's going on?
Italian-American automaker Fiat Chrysler announced on Thursday a withdrawal of the merger proposal it made to French rival Renault last week. Investors sold shares of both – and of Japanese Nissan, in which Renault has a 43% stake (tweet this).
What does this mean?
According to Fiat Chrysler, Renault wasn’t moving fast enough to progress the potential deal. The French government, which owns 15% of Renault, said it’d support the merger so long as French jobs were protected – but Renault executives twice delayed a vote on the proposal. It’s likely Renault wanted Nissan’s signoff on the deal too: the Japanese carmaker also owns a 15% stake in Renault and appeared to be a roadblock, reportedly planning to abstain from any vote.
Why should I care?
For markets: A winding road for global autos.
Shares of global automakers have gone up and down like the gears of a Formula One car this year. Investors first sold off autos stocks earlier in the year, likely anticipating a slowdown in consumer demand. They then sold further with the winds of US-China-Europe trade discussions as tariffs threatened to raise car prices and downshift demand even more, but bought when it appeared there was progress towards a low or no tariff resolution. A Fiat-Renault merger would’ve created the world’s third-largest car manufacturer. And investors likely hoped the deal would put the company’s destiny (and share price) in its own hands, driving earnings growth through synergies and innovation – and shielding it from economic trends.
The bigger picture: Teamwork is hard in Europe.
In February, European competition regulators blocked the coupling of Alstom and Siemens’ rail transport businesses – and just last month also put the brakes on Mediaset’s attempt to tune in with Sky Italia in order to better compete against Netflix. Although failed attempts at mergers and acquisitions seem par for the course in Europe, Fiat Chrysler and Renault stand out as they crumpled their own deal, as opposed to a panel beating by competition authorities.