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Chrysler CEO: Going Public Will Be Pain-Free

DETROIT (TheStreet) -- Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne still isn't saying when the automaker will go public, but he is saying staging an IPO will be relatively easy once the time comes.

"We haven't made a decision as to which way to go from here, [and] it's not imminent," Marchionne said Tuesday in an interview with Detroit radio station WJR host Paul Smith at the Geneva Motor Show. But "the conditions exist for that to happen, and it's not a painful exercise, it's not something that's going to create an additional burden onto Chrysler. Chrysler can."

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne

Marchionne said Chrysler has already done much of the work required to go public because it has created a corporate governance structure "that's effectively capable of handling a public U.S.-listed company."

"We have all the know-how inside the house to do it; we have the internal controls, we have the corporate governance regime, we have an independent board, we have all the things that are required," he said. Chrysler posted a transcript of the interview on its Web site.

Establishment of the corporate governance structure was required when Chrysler got funding from the U.S. Treasury and established an ownership stake for a voluntary employees' beneficiary trust. Today, Fiat SpA owns 58.5% of Chrysler, while the trust owns 41.5%. Fiat trades on the Milan Stock Exchange. In the U.S., Fiat ADRs trade on the pink sheets as FIATY.PK.

In the past, Marchionne has said Chrysler will work with the employees' trust to help it monetize its shares. On the Chrysler third-quarter earnings call, he discussed the timing of an IPO, saying "I really don't think it's a 2012 event, [but] almost a 2013 issue, and we should start tabling the discussion with VEBA sometime in the second half of this year and see what their interests are."

One issue is that Chrysler holds call options giving it the right to acquire 40% of the trust's holdings by the end of 2016.

For years, Chrysler traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol C, now held by Citibank (C) . The last trade was Nov. 12, 1989. After that, shares were converted to shares of Daimler Chrysler following the merger with Daimler-Benz.

GM (GM) filed for bankruptcy on June 1, 2009, emerged on July 10, 2009. On Nov. 17, 2010, it staged a $20 billion IPO and got its symbol back.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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