Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCAU) is reportedly mulling a sale of its robotics arm Comau SpA, potentially worth between €1.5 billion to €2 billion ($1.7 billion to $2.3 billion), less than a month after an investor urged the automaker to consider a merger.
London-based Fiat Chrysler is in the early stages of a strategic review of Comau, and no final decisions have been made. But a sale process could start early next year, Bloomberg reported Monday, Nov. 26, citing people familiar with the matter.
Shares of the automaker rose 4.9%.
Chinese bidders could circle the business, which makes automated manufacturing systems and industrial robots, Bloomberg reported. A sale or spin-off of Comau would mark the second major deal under CEO Mike Manley, who took the helm just days before the death of long-time Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.
Fiat Chrysler in late October agreed to sell its automotive parts unit Magneti Marelli SpA to Japan's Calsonic Kansei Corp. for a transaction value of €6.2 billion, shifting away from its previously announced plan to spin off the business.
But the company's shift away from components businesses predates Manley officially stepping in to the lead role. In April, The Deal reported that the future of Fiat Chrysler's components subsidiaries, including Comau and castings company Teksid SpA, were in question, as Marchionne had signaled the company would shift its focus back to automobiles.
Recent pressure on automakers from trade tensions, declining car sales in China -- the world's largest automotive market -- and clean air regulations are adding more reason to focus more closely on automobiles, especially for Fiat Chrysler, which has fallen behind its competitors in electrification and autonomous driving technologies.
Still, others see options for Fiat Chrysler beyond components unit sales. Shareholder ADW Capital Management LLC wrote to Fiat's board on Nov. 8 calling for the company to "separate" the Alfa Romeo and Maserati businesses.
ADW Capital said Fiat Chrysler could spin Alfa Romeo and Maserati off to shareholders and then pursue a merger with one of its North American peers, with the most attractive being General Motors Co. (GM) . The insurgent, which argued a merger would create significant cost savings, even suggested that Fiat Chrysler could force the hand of either GM or Ford Motor Co. (F) by teaming up with major shareholders of the competitors to drive sale talks.
--Lisa Botter contributed to this report.