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FCA chairman said to seek mergers, tie-ups; Uber set to buy Middle Eastern rival

TOP NEWS

* John Elkann, chairman of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, is pushing for potential mergers and tie-ups for the Italian-U.S. carmaker, the Financial Times (London) reported, citing unnamed sources. Elkann, who is the scion of the Agnelli family, the company's largest shareholder, has held talks with South Korean and Chinese carmakers in addition to French carmaker Peugeot SA about a potential deal, but nothing is imminent, the newspaper reported. Fiat Chrysler previously rejected in 2019 a $45 billion merger offer from Peugeot, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

* Uber Technologies Inc. could announce as soon as March 26 a deal to buy Middle Eastern ride-hailing rival Careem Networks FZ LLC for $3.1 billion, comprising $1.4 billion in cash and $1.7 billion in convertible notes that can be redeemed for Uber shares at $55 apiece, Bloomberg News reported, citing a term sheet and people with knowledge of the matter. Careem shareholders, including Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal's investment firm and Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten, reportedly need to agree to the deal terms. Uber spokesman Matt Kallman declined to comment to Bloomberg, while a Careem spokesman was not immediately available for comment. The potential acquisition comes ahead of the company's much-anticipated IPO, which could value the company at $120 billion.

CARMAKERS

* General Motors Co. said it is investing $1.8 billion in U.S. manufacturing operations, including a previously reported $300 million investment into one of its Michigan plants to build a new electric vehicle under the Chevrolet brand. The Michigan-based automaker said the total U.S. investment will help create 700 new jobs and support another 28,000 jobs in six states.

* Daimler AG's supervisory and management boards proposed appointing Ola Källenius as CEO of its Mercedes-Benz AG unit and chairman of the supervisory board of its Daimler Trucks & Buses unit. Manfred Bischoff was appointed chairman of the passenger car unit's supervisory board, while Martin Daum was nominated as CEO of the truck and business unit as part of Daimler's plan to spin off the units into two legally independent operating stock corporations, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. Källenius is set to become chairman of the group.

* A Beijing court ruled in favor of Jaguar Land Rover Ltd.'s 2016 claim that Chinese carmaker Jiangling Motors Corp. Ltd. copied features of its Landwind X7 SUV off the British luxury-car maker's Range Rover Evoque model, the Financial Times (London) reported. The court reportedly ordered Jiangling, which was not immediately available for comment to the newspaper, to cease production, sales and marketing of the vehicle. Tata Motors Ltd.-owned JLR also is seeking 1.5 million Chinese yuan in costs and lost business, a sum that might increase in the future. Keith Benjamin, JLR global head of legal, told the newspaper that the verdict "further strengthens" the company's confidence in investing in China.

* China's Great Wall Motor Co. Ltd.'s 2018 adjusted net profit attributable to its shareholders dropped nearly 31% to 3.89 billion Chinese yuan, missing analysts' consensus adjusted net income estimate of 5.13 billion yuan. The carmaker, which has a local joint venture with Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, expects the gradual liberalization of the Chinese economy to pose "more intense" competition between self-owned brands and joint ventures, including further market concentration. Adjusted basic EPS for the year fell to 43 fen from 47 fen in 2017. Annual revenue fell 1.92% year over year to 99.23 billion yuan.

* FAW-Toyota, the Chinese joint venture between Toyota Motor Corp. and China FAW Group Corp., began work on the second phase of Toyota's New Global Vehicle Architecture program in the country that aims to raise the JV's annual car production capacity to 220,000 vehicles from 100,000, Gasgoo reported, citing local media outlets. FAW-Toyota reportedly will make two new Toyota models in 2019 — the all-new Corolla that will go on sale in the third quarter and the fifth generation RAV4 that is scheduled to release in the fourth quarter. The JV also rolled out the IZOA small-sized SUV and the Avalon models that were produced as part of the first phase of the program, according to the report.

ELECTRIC AND AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

* In response to the SEC's March 18 rebuttal, the legal team of Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk maintained in a new court filing that the Feb. 19 tweet was "not material" to Tesla investors as the regulator had claimed, and stated that the SEC's argument "rests on an incorrect interpretation of the policy." In addition, Musk's lawyers said the SEC's arguments are based on "a radical reinterpretation of the order that would impose sweeping restrictions to which Musk never consented."

* Registrations for Tesla's new vehicles dropped significantly to 6,252 vehicles in February, compared with 23,310 in January and a monthly average of 13,000 to 17,000 in the fourth quarter of 2018, The New York Times reported, citing data compiled from motor vehicle records from 23 states by the Dominion Cross-Sell Report. The states include Tesla's main markets of California, Texas, Florida and Washington. Analysts associated the decline in sales to the phasing out of the federal tax credit, although a Tesla spokesman reportedly told the Times that a single month of vehicle registrations does not necessarily reflect the company's delivery figures and registrations in individual states can fluctuate significantly from month to month. Separately, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the electric-car maker will raise the prices of all inventory cars by about 3%, beginning April 2.

* Cash-strapped electric car startup Faraday&Future Inc. forged a 50-50 joint venture with Chinese online game developer The9 Ltd. to manufacture, market, distribute and sell its luxury electric vehicle, banded V9, and potentially other select future car models in China. The9 will invest up to $600 million into the JV that aims to produce 300,000 cars annually, with the first pre-production car expected to roll off the production line in 2020.

POLICY, REGULATIONS AND SAFETY

* Volvo Cars CEO Håkan Samuelsson said it is "irresponsible" to launch autonomous vehicles "without being absolutely convinced the car can handle" different situations safely as it would lessen trust on self-driving technology among the public and regulators, the Financial Times (London) reported. "We have a responsibility and everybody who's in this business has that responsibility, because otherwise you're going to kill a technology that might be the best lifesaver in the history of the car," the CEO of the Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd.-owned company, which unveiled March 20 a range of driver safety systems, reportedly said.

AUTO PARTS AND EQUIPMENT

* Hyundai Motor Group's IT services unit Hyundai AutoEver Corp. plans to list on March 29 on South Korea's main bourse, KOSPI, and raise about 168.4 billion won. The raised money will help Group Executive Vice President Chung Eui-sun increase his stake in the group's auto-parts unit Hyundai Mobis Co. Ltd. to fend off activist shareholder pressure, The Korea Herald reported.

Now featured on S&P Global Market Intelligence

Brexit: What to expect as UK hurtles toward deadline

The day ahead

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a lower opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, the Hang Seng Index was down 2.03% to 28,523.35. The Nikkei 225 retreated 3.01% to 20,977.11.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was down 0.26% to 7,188.88, and the Euronext 100 fell 0.29% to 1,023.84.

On the macro front

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago's National Activity Index and the Dallas Fed's Manufacturing Survey are due out today.

Click here to read about today's financial markets, setting out the factors driving stocks, bonds and currencies around the world ahead of the New York open.

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