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Daimler may gain stake in Nissan's diesel unit Talks follow German automaker's agreement to purchase Chrysler; Auto industry


TOKYO -- Daimler-Benz AG, a week after agreeing to buy Chrysler Corp., said yesterday that it is in talks with Nissan Diesel Motor Co. about an alliance that could include taking a stake in Japan's fourth largest truck maker.

Daimler spokesman Roland Klein said the automaker has been in talks with Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., which owns 39.8 percent of Nissan Diesel, for several months. He declined to comment on Japanese newspaper reports that allege Daimler will take a controlling stake of at least 33.4 percent in Nissan Diesel.

Based on Nissan Diesel's market value, that stake could cost $125 million.

"The new DaimlerChrysler is really lacking strength in volume in Asia and Nissan is a good strong partner to make," said Markus Plumer, an analyst at Westdeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale in Dusseldorf.

The talks closely follow Daimler's decision last week to buy Chrysler Corp., America's third-largest automaker, for $43 billion stock and debt. Nissan Diesel would boost Daimler's truck sales in Asia, now about 5 percent of total truck sales, as well as inject cash into money-losing Nissan Diesel.

Daimler-Benz makes trucks and buses in Europe for Asian export and has assembly sites in China, Vietnam and Indonesia. Nissan Diesel has factories and sales outlets in China, Thailand, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Philippines.

Daimler-Benz sold 8,000 trucks in Asia in 1996.

Nissan Diesel sold 42,786, Daimler said.

Such a deal would relieve Nissan Diesel would relieve Nissan Motor from having to bail out Nissan Diesel, which plans to cut 110 billion yen in costs over three years amid stagnant sales.

Daimler shares rose 4.1 marks, or 2.1 percent, to 201.3.

Daimler and Nissan also are considering joint development of a truck in the 7-ton to 15-ton range for the Asian market that would be similar to Mercedes' new Atego series, which went on sale in Europe in February. Both companies declined to comment on when negotiations would be concluded. Japanese press reports said an agreement could come as early as next month.

Pub Date: 5/12/98

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