Valeo's Morin to Pardus: Learn before you leap

Valeo CEO Thierry Morin: The supplier is doing less business with the Detroit 3 but more with Asian and German automakers.
PARIS — Valeo CEO Thierry Morin was feeling feisty this month during a press conference after the release of the French supplier's year-end results.

Morin talked about the supplier's 17.7 percent increase in annual operating profit to 319 million euros ($469.0 million at current exchange rates) on sales of 9.7 billion euros ($14.26 billion). But he also gave some unsolicited advice to one of the company's major shareholders and criticized General Motors.

Speculation remains strong that the major shareholder — New York City hedge fund Pardus Capital Management LP — wants more control at Valeo. The fund increased its stake in the supplier to 19.7 percent in January from 16.3 percent.

Morin said he has heard "four different strategies from Pardus at different times. It depends on the day."

Then he added this suggestion: "To enter this business, you ought to know it very well before you start making hasty decisions."

Supporters are welcome

Last summer, Pardus founder Karim Samii proposed eight candidates, including himself, to the Valeo board, but none was elected.

Morin says he would welcome board representation from Pardus as long as the new board members support Valeo's strategy and want to help.

"But if they plan to come in and tell Valeo to buy Visteon, that would be completely inappropriate," Morin said.

Pardus also has a large stake in U.S. parts maker Visteon Corp. and in the past has campaigned for Valeo to launch a takeover bid of Visteon.

Pardus has lost almost a quarter of its value — about $800 million — since November because of troubles with its investments in U.S. airlines, according to media reports.

More Ford business

Turning to GM, Morin said he was happy to have fewer sales to the automaker. U.S. automakers have become less important in Valeo's global sales.

"We have significantly disengaged from our loss-making contracts with GM," Morin said. "Conversely, we are doing more, and more profitable, business with Ford."

Last year, 21.8 percent of Valeo's total volume was with the Detroit 3. In 2001 that percentage was 31.7 percent. Valeo replaced the U.S. volume with increased sales to Asian and German automakers.

"Yes, we lost 10 percentage points in the U.S., but we've gained almost 10 percentage points in Japan," Morin said. "That's a better positioning." 

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