Wednesday, September 24, 2008

UPDATE 2-Daimler may sell remaining Chrysler stake

(Adds details on Chrysler's operations, results)

DETROIT, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) said on Wednesday it was in talks with private equity group Cerberus Capital Management to sell its remaining 19.9 percent stake in struggling U.S. automaker Chrysler LLC.

Cerberus bought 80.1 percent of Chrysler in May 2007 in a $7.4 billion deal just before a sharp slowdown in overall U.S. auto sales.

It is unclear at this time how much Daimler's stake in Chrysler would be worth. Daimler said in July the book value of its stake was 171 million euros.

Representative for Cerberus and Daimler could not be immediately reached.

The move comes as Chrysler faces scrutiny over whether it has the cash to ride out a downturn in U.S. auto sales that many analysts expect to stretch through 2009.

Chrysler's U.S. sales have declined nearly 25 percent through the first eight months of the year, the largest decline of any major U.S. automaker. Light trucks account for nearly 70 percent of Chrysler's volume at a time when consumers are moving towards smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The automaker, which is restructuring its operations, has been closing plants and cutting jobs amid the sales slump. It has also identified nearly $1 billion in non-earning assets for sale to raise cash for operations.

Chrysler Chief Executive Bob Nardelli said on Tuesday he was "very confident" in Chrysler's business plan and liquidity position.

The automaker, which has released limited financial data since Cerberus bought it, has said it ended June with $11.7 billion in cash and had earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization of $1.1 billion in the first half of the year. (Reporting by Poornima Gupta, editing by Leslie Gevirtz and Andre Grenon)

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