INTERVIEW-American Axle says any GM-Chrysler merger positive


By Soyoung Kim

DETROIT, Oct 31 (Reuters) - American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings sees any merger between General Motors Corp and Chrysler LLC [CBS.UL] as an opportunity to expand its business by ensuring the financial health of its top customers, the supplier's chief financial officer said.

"Certainly, we don't look upon this situation as anything but an opportunity for us to continue helping two great customers. If we have any view, it would be positive, not negative," Chief Financial Officer Michael Simonte told Reuters on Friday.

The supplier draws three-quarters of its total revenue from GM. The No.1 U.S. automaker sold some of its axle plants in 1994 to an investor group led by Dick Dauch, who created American Axle.

Simonte said American Axle will likely apply for a share of the $25 billion federal loans for the U.S. auto industry approved by Congress if it is eligible to participate.

He added U.S. automakers have the same problems that gave rise to the $700 billion bailout for the financial industry and it is "quite appropriate" for the government to assist them to transition through "very difficult credit market conditions."

The Bush administration approved $25 billion in low-interest, government loans intended to help automakers and suppliers retool plants to meet new fuel economy standards.

The U.S. Department of Energy is in the process of writing the rules that will govern those loans, and the auto industry is pushing for a quick disbursement of the funding.

"It's not possible to understand whether we will be able to participate until we have access to the rules and we will be looking forward to reading those rules. If it's appropriate for us to apply, then we will probably will," Simonte said. (Reporting by Soyoung Kim, editing by Matthew Lewis)



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