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Magna Chief Executive Confirms Interest in Chrysler Stake

CNBC.com
Friday, 9 Mar 2007 | 2:34 PM ET

Frank Stronach, CEO of Canadian auto parts giant Magna International, confirmed that his company could be interested in taking a stake in DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler division, The Globe and Mail reported.

Stronach said it was vital that Magna be involved in a possible sale of Chrysler to protect itself and help its biggest customer, reported the daily, which carried the first public comments by Magna owner since Chryslers Feb 14 announcement that it would cut 16% of its employees.

Stronach has already met DaimlerChrysler chairman Dieter Zetsche and the presidents of Canadian auto unions to discuss the future of Chrysler. He indicated that Magna officials would attend a briefing by leaders of Chrysler at Auburn Hills in Michigan.

Earlier this week, Magna President Mark Hogan said any acquisition Magna makes would be proactive rather than defensive, and the company has long been known to harbor ambitions of becoming an automaker. Hogan also noted that what's up for sale are big blocks of assets, while Magna is interested in a more targeted strategy and would be more selective in its interests, said the Wall Street Journal.

Private Equity Interest

Meanwhile, The Detroit News reported that a third private equity investor, Centerbridge Partners, has entered the bidding process for Chrysler Group.

Centerbridge, a relatively new player in the private equity arena, joins Blackstone Group and Cerberus Capital Management as potential buyers for the U.S. division of DaimlerChrysler.

A team from Centerbridge accompanied Blackstone buyout experts on their two-day visit with Chrysler executives in Auburn Hills that concluded Thursday, according to people familiar with the situation, the paper reports.

There was no immediate comment from Centerbridge about its interest in Chrysler, which was made available for sale Feb. 14 by German automaker DaimlerChrysler, when CEO Dieter Zetsche said all options were being considered for Chrysler.

The Detroit News reported that people close to the situation said that the private equity firms will likely submit buyout proposals before the end of the month.

It's unclear whether Centerbridge will act on its own or in partnership with Blackstone in a bid to acquire Chrysler, but they are expected to be an aggressive player in seeking private equity deals, having raised $3 billion in capital from investors in less than a year.

Private-equity firms Blackstone Group and Cerberus Capital Management also visited Chrysler's office to hear about the prospects for the business from Chrysler's top executives, including CEO Tom LaSorda, according to people familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal reported.

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