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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 April 2007, 08:02 GMT 09:02 UK
Daimler shareholders seek quick sale
By Tristana Moore
BBC Berlin Correspondent

DaimlerChrysler's annual general meeting in Berlin
Shareholders were vocal in their criticism at the meeting
About 9,000 shareholders gathered at Berlin's main exhibition centre on Wednesday to attend the German-US carmaker's annual meeting.

Amid all the speculation, the fate of its loss-making North American unit, Chrysler, was the main topic on the agenda.

DaimlerChrysler's chief executive Dieter Zetsche admitted for the first time that the group has started negotiations with a number of parties about the sale of Chrysler.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Zetsche said: "I can confirm that we are talking with some of the potential partners who have shown a clear interest."

But he refused to be drawn on any details about the identity of these potential buyers.

"We need to keep all options open and I cannot disclose any details, because we need to have the maximum scope for manoeuvre," he said.

'Hellish marriage'

Many angry shareholders stood up during the meeting to condemn the transatlantic merger which took place between Daimler-Benz and Chrysler in 1998.

The saying went in the US, if you want to buy Chrysler, then you also have to buy a permanent mechanic
Willie Wolf, DaimlerChrysler investor

One investor from Munich said it was a "marriage made in hell" and he urged the group to get rid of the Chrysler division as soon as possible.

"I have very good friends over in Michigan, and I spoke to them yesterday, and I am pretty sure DaimlerChrysler will break-up," said Christian Fabricius, another shareholder from Munich.

DaimlerChrysler's chief executive Dieter Zetsche
Dieter Zetsche faces some tough discussions over selling Chrysler

"There are so many problems in the US car market. I have invested quite a lot of money in these stocks because I always thought that the group was producing great cars - like Mercedes.

"But there are big problems with Chrysler, all these cars are not fuel-efficient, they weren't thinking about greenhouse gas emissions.

"Daimler-Benz and Chrysler will have to split up and in the long-run that's better for the Mercedes car group," he added.

Henning Gebhardt, from DWS, a major German asset management firm said he would be happy if "Chrysler is finally led before the divorce judge".

"But what happens if you don't find a new bridegroom or if he demands an inappropriately high dowry?"


Mr Zetsche said any decision on Chrysler's future had to be the best solution for both companies, as well as workers and customers.

Chrysler trucks
Merging with Chrysler has not been enjoyable for Daimler

But investors were keen to hear how the management were planning to save the group from hitting major trouble.

"I hope that we don't reach the time when we are in a real crisis," said Klaus Fiereck, a shareholder from Stuttgart.

"There are many differences between the German company Daimler-Benz and the US division, Chrysler.

"Maybe next year there will be two separate companies, one in the US and one here in Germany. I think they will go their separate ways by 2008," he added.

"My son called me in 1998 when he was living in America and told me that Daimler-Benz wanted to buy Chrysler," said Willie Wolf, an investor from Munich.

"And as the saying went in the US, if you want to buy Chrysler, then you also have to buy a permanent mechanic.

"Almost 10 years later, here we are in this mess. Daimler has to separate from Chrysler as fast as possible."

According to media reports, a few bidders have already expressed an interest in buying Chrysler, including the private equity firms, Cerberus Capital Management, and the Blackstone Group, as well as the Canadian car-parts supplier Magna International.

There are even rumours that there could be a deal later this month, although some analysts have urged caution, warning that any negotiations will be protracted and tough.

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