Blackstone Eyes Acquisition Of Chrysler

The Blackstone Group, a private-equity tycoon with stakes in over 100 companies, was tagged as the leading contender to purchase the troubled Chrysler Group. Blackstone possesses $125 billion worth in assets and a remarkable auto expertise. These qualities made it a leading buyout contender if ever DaimlerChrysler AG decides to sell.

Blackstone, led by its chairman Stephen Schwarzman, is among a bunch of corporate suitors that has been given access to Chrysler?s confidential business data. The said data was put up for sale in February.

Potential purchasers also include Cerberus Capital Management and General Motors Corp. The former also tries to purchase the bankrupt Delphi Corporation. GM, on the other hand, as been in talks with Daimler regarding the potential Chrysler deal since December. Other private-equity firms also expressed their desire to acquire the ailing company. But with Blackstone around, armed with $125 billion corporate assets, that for now casts the greatest influence over Chrysler. Schwarzman, dubbed as the ?King of Wall Street,” is also another factor that could trigger the sale.

“They have a serious level of credibility in the buyout world,” said Joseph Phillippi, an automotive consultant and former Wall Street analyst. “They’re a big player with lots of money and a track record in automotive.”

People familiar with the potential Chrysler sale said Blackstone is moving forward with a detailed analysis of Chrysler’s finances and operations with an eye toward making a formal bid. Chrysler declined to give comment on Blackstone and of other potential bidders. Details of the process have been closely guarded since 14 Feb. It was on that day when Dieter Zetsche, DaimlerChrysler?s chief executive, rocked the auto industry by announcing that “all options” were being looked at for Chrysler.

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It can be recalled that German shareholders of Daimler have been pushing for a Chrysler sale since the third quarter of last year when the US unit posted a $1.5 billion loss. The situation was heightened by Daimler?s hiring of J.P. Morgan Chase who is an investment banker. It was further intensified when Blackstone and Cerberus in the previous week when Blackstone and Cerberus were given access to confidential data on Chrysler’s assets, liabilities, product plans and sales projections. “So much depends on how much of the liabilities DaimlerChrysler is willing to retain,” said David Healy, a Burnham Securities auto analyst. “But there are a million ways of structuring deals.”

“They have done very well in the auto sector,” Phillippi said pertaining to Blackstone. “I could see them as a very serious bidder for Chrysler.” In regard GM, people close to the company said the automaker is “in no hurry” to make a formal offer for Chrysler. Nevertheless, that could change now. With Blackstone and Cerberus accelerating their study of Chrysler, GM could be triggered to show more aggressive heat that no APC cold air intake could restrain.