The CEO of Hyundai Motor Group plans to launch a takeover bid for Fiat Chrysler ahead of the planned retirement of FCA Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne next spring, Asia Times reports, citing unnamed sources close the situation. CEO Chung Mong-koo will wait for an expected decline in the Italian-American automaker's shares to make his move.

Hyundai isn't commenting on the rumors, unsurprisingly, but would presumably stand to benefit by gaining Chrysler's dealer network and the lucrative Jeep brand and probably Ram, too. An FCA spokeswoman in Auburn Hills told Autoblog the company had no comment.

But like any story about a possible takeover, this one gets complicated with inside players — and President Trump's posturing on international trade issues.

FCA has been the subject of takeover interest before, including by Hyundai, but Marchionne has denied a merger was likely, instead saying his company was in talks with the Korean automaker about a technical partnership. In 2015, Marchionne lobbied General Motors hard, but unsuccessfully, for a tie-up; he was also spurned by Volkswagen. Marchionne had repeatedly stressed the need for car companies to merge to decrease overcapacity and better afford the massive investments needed for things like autonomous and electric vehicles.

In the case of Hyundai's reported interest, there is a cast of characters. One is Paul Singer, principal of the hedge fund Elliott Management, an activist shareholder with a $1 billion stake in Hyundai and a major owner of equities in Fiat's home turf of Italy. Then there is FCA Chairman John Elkann, who reportedly disagrees with Marchionne on a successor as CEO of Fiat Chrysler but has little interest in running the company himself and would prefer a merger.

Compounding things is what the Trump administration would think of a further blending of Fiat Chrysler's international DNA, though a deal with a Korean automaker is thought to be more palatable to the president and members of Congress than by a Chinese conglomerate like Great Wall Motor, which has confirmed its interest in taking over all or parts of FCA.

The full Asia Times piece is here.

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