Hot on the heels of an embarrassing back down with the ill fated European Football Super League, Italy’s billionaire Agnelli family has announced another back down with its CNH Industrial NV ending talks with China’s FAW Group to sell its Iveco truck and bus business.
“CNH Industrial believes there are significant opportunities to develop its On-Highway business by accelerating the deployment of ever more sustainable transport solutions and infrastructure, in line with the EU’s Green Deal ambitions,” the company said in a statement last week.
Various news agencies have reported that CNH had abandoned the talks because the Chinese automotive group hadn’t presented an acceptable offer for Iveco, citing a person familiar with the discussions.
Italy’s government had signalled its opposition to Iveco being sold to a Chinese company and praised the decision.
The Italian government had followed the development closely, because it had said via its Economic Development Minister, Giancarlo Giorgetti, that it considered the production of heavy of vehicles of strategic national interest.
“The government is prepared to help ensure that this production remains in Italy,” said Minister Giorgetti.
The decision was also welcomed in France, with Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire noting how he and Giorgetti are working together to maintain Europe’s manufacturing interests.
“This transaction raised important issues of industrial sovereignty,” the French minister said.
CNH had been talks with FAW since last year on a potential deal to sell Iveco to the Chinese commercial vehicle and industrial company. It had already rejected an initial proposal from the Chinese company in 2020 valuing the business at around 3 billion euros ($US3.6 billion), insiders revealed to the media in March. The talks coincided with growing opposition to Chinese ownership among leading politicians.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on 8th April he backed an extension of state protection for Italian businesses, after revealing that his government recently blocked a Chinese takeover of an Italian semiconductor company.
Matteo Salvini, leader of the rightist League party, the most popular party in Draghi’s broad coalition, said last month that the administration must protect Iveco as a strategic asset.
CNH announced plans in 2019 to split agricultural equipmentits business from its commercial vehicle operations. Those efforts were delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
However the sale of one of Europe’s most iconic truck makers could shake up the sector as well as potentially attract more domestic criticism for the Agnelli family for selling one of its historical assets to a foreign buyer and already under site as a result of its involvement in the Football Super League scandal through the Juventas club which the family controls.