By Agnieszka Flak
MILAN (Reuters) - Italian sportscar maker Ferrari has taken a step closer to a stock market listing in New York, as its parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) (FCHA.MI) (FCAU.N) seeks to boost its own coffers to fund an ambitious 48 billion euro ($53 billion)investment plan.
FCA said on Thursday Ferrari, the marque famous for its "prancing horse" logo and its Formula One racing team, had filed a request with U.S. regulators for a New York initial public offering.
The Maranello, northern Italy-based maker of typically red models such as the 488 GTB and the 1 million euro LaFerrari, could attract a market value of at least 10 billion euros, according to Sergio Marchionne, FCA chief executive and Ferrari chairman. Some analysts said it could be half that.
FCA, home to a stable of brands ranging from Fiat and Jeep to Alfa Romeo, has one of the highest debts in the industry and needs the funds from the flotation of its most prestigious brand to help finance its own plan to boost sales by 60 percent to 7 million cars by 2018 and increase net profit five-fold.
FCA said last year it would sell up to 10 percent of Ferrari via the share offering and would distribute the rest of its stake to its shareholders. The float is expected after mid-October while the separation should be completed in early 2016.
WALL ST BLUEPRINT
Following the blueprint of Fiat's marriage with Chrysler and a New York listing of the merged entity last year, FCA will create a Dutch-registered holding company for Ferrari and list its shares on Wall Street, according to the filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Ferrari may apply for a secondary listing in Milan.
FCA currently owns 90 percent of Ferrari, with the remaining 10 percent held by Piero Ferrari, vice chairman and son of the founder Enzo, who died in 1988.
As in FCA's case, Ferrari's float will also include a loyalty share scheme for long-term investors, set to tighten the grip on the company by Fiat's founding Agnelli family.
The Agnellis, through their holding company Exor (EXOR.MI), and Piero Ferrari together could end up with a voting power of just under 51 percent, enabling them to thwart any unwanted takeover bid.
UBS will be the offer's global coordinator, with BofA Merrill Lynch and Santander joint bookrunners.
A successful Ferrari listing would bolster FCA's finances at a time when its search for a merger partner to deal with falling margins and high development costs appears to have fallen on deaf ears.
Marchionne sent an e-mail earlier this year to his counterpart at U.S. rival General Motors (GM.N) proposing a tie-up, but was rebuffed.
Some analysts say the divorce from Ferrari could make it easier to prepare FCA for a potential merger, as Ferrari made it harder to assign a value to FCA. Separating it from FCA's brands such as tiny Fiat 500s and sporty Maseratis is an "act of purification" to unlock value at both, Marchionne has said.
(Additional reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Mark Potter and David Holmes)