By Junko Fujita and Agnieszka Flak
TOKYO/MILAN (Reuters) - Japan's Calsonic Kansei, owned by U.S. private equity firm KKR, has agreed to buy Fiat Chrysler's Magneti Marelli for 6.2 billion euros ($7.1 billion) to form the seventh-largest independent car parts supplier.
The first big deal by FCA's newly-appointed chief executive Mike Manley, who took over in July after the sudden death of long-time boss Sergio Marchionne, creates a company with revenue of 15.2 billion euros ($17.5 billion), the companies said.
The newly formed Magneti Marelli CK Holdings is likely to cut costs through synergies and expand its customer base as components makers try to keep up with a shift by carmakers into autonomous driving, connected cars and electric vehicles.
"This combination with Calsonic Kansei has emerged as an ideal opportunity to accelerate Magneti Marelli's future growth," Manley said on Monday of the FCA unit, which specializes in lighting, powertrain and high-tech electronics.
FCA shares were up 3.6 percent at 1358 GMT as investors welcomed the hefty price tag, which will boost FCA's net cash position, raise expectations of a share buyback and pave the way for dividend payments the carmaker promised under its new five-year strategy plan unveiled in June.
It will also help FCA pay for much needed investments in hybrid and electric cars in order to remain compliant with stricter future emissions regulations in the EU and elsewhere.
"Getting this transaction completed at the price agreed is a significant early milestone and accomplishment," George Galliers, an analyst at Evercore ISI, said of Manley and his team's ability to match Marchionne's deal-making reputation.
Marchionne had set in motion a process to spin off the unit and distribute its shares to FCA shareholders by early 2019, but said in June that FCA would still be "receptive" to an offer.
Neither FCA nor its top shareholder, Fiat's founding Agnelli family, will have a stake in the combined business but FCA said it would enter into a multi-year agreement to secure supplies to its plants and also to maintain operations and staff in Italy.
KKR bought Calsonic from Nissan and other shareholders in 2016, saying it would help the parts maker, which relies on the Japanese carmaker for most of its sales, to expand globally.
Calsonic has been in talks with FCA for months and made an initial 5.8 billion euro bid, sources have said.
FCA does not break out earnings for Magneti Marelli, which sits within its components unit alongside robotics specialist Comau and castings firm Teksid. The unit employs around 43,000 people and operates in 19 countries.
Calsonic is paying around 17 times next year's estimated earnings for Magneti Marelli, according to Galliers' calculations. That's more than double what listed rivals such as Valeo or Continental are worth, according to Refinitiv data.
"As this transaction highlights, there is still value in parts of current supplier portfolios, if crystallized appropriately," Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois said, adding that the sale could lead to a special dividend of as much as 2 billion euros.
A takeover of Magneti Marelli had seemed elusive as potential bidders were offering too little or were only interested in some parts of the business.
FCA also preferred the Calsonic offer to a pure private equity bidder because it limits the risk of the unit being broken up, sources have said.
With the Magneti Marelli sale wrapped up, focus will likely shift to Teksid and Comau, the remaining components businesses within FCA's portfolio, which have attracted interest from rivals and private equity firms in the past.
JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs were financial advisers to FCA on the Magneti Marelli deal, which is expected to close in the first half of next year and is subject to regulatory approvals.
($1 = 0.8694 euros)
(Additional reporting by Francesca Landini, editing by Edwina Gibbs, Alexander Smith and Kirsten Donovan)