The head of AGCO Corp said on Thursday that comments he made earlier this week about wanting to buy portions of CNH Global NV were strictly academic because Fiat SpA views the farm and construction equipment subsidiary as "strategically important" and has no plans to sell it.
On Wednesday, Fiat shares touched a 30-month high after AGCO Chairman and Chief Executive Martin Richenhagen told the Italian business newspaper MF that he was interested in CNH and had met with Fiat's Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne 10 days ago.
Richenhagen said in an exclusive interview with Reuters on Thursday that "in case, if, theoretically CNH would become available, we would, of course, be interested. It would be stupid not to be interested."
But he said investors should not get excited about the possibility of a deal "because Marchionne doesn't want to sell."
He called the comments he made to MF a "theoretical exercise" and promptly engaged in another involving Deere & Co, the world's largest maker of tractors and combines.
"If somebody would take apart Deere we would of course be very interested," he said. "But that will not happen."
Richenhagen said that AGCO, which made three small deals in 2010, had set aside nothing in its 2011 budget for M&A "since we do not really plan a major acquisition."
He said the company's M&A strategy remained "small and opportunistic" and said that deals along those more modest lines might play a role in his company's China expansion.
AGCO is the world's third-largest maker of tractors and combines and sells its equipment under the Massey Ferguson, Fendt, Valtra and AGCO brand names, among others.
Based in Duluth, Georgia, the company traces its roots back to the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Co, whose bright orange tractors were once an iconic part of the American agricultural landscape. (Reporting by James B. Kelleher)