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Samsung Said in Talks to Buy Assets of Fiat Auto-Parts Unit

  • Company most interested in lighting, entertainment, telematics
  • Deal could be worth more than $3 billion, may close this year

Samsung Electronics Co. is in advanced talks to buy some or all of the operations of auto-parts maker Magneti Marelli from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, according to people familiar with the matter.

Samsung is particularly interested in Magneti Marelli’s lighting, in-car entertainment and telematics business and could consider an acquisition of the whole company, the people said, asking not to be identified as the discussions are private. The deal could be worth more than $3 billion with a goal of closing this year, one of the people said, which would make it the company’s biggest-ever acquisition outside South Korea. Fiat’s shares rose the most since October 2014.

Vice Chairman Lee Jae Yong, 48, is reshaping South Korea’s biggest company as he takes on more responsibilities once held by his father. He has sold off assets and narrowed the conglomerate’s scope as he seeks to bounce back from a downturn in the smartphone business. A move into automobile components would help decrease Samsung’s reliance on consumer electronics.

Lee, who has been a director of Fiat Chrysler’s controlling shareholder Exor SpA since 2012, would also position his company to benefit from the rising interest in cars from technology companies. Apple Inc., Baidu Inc. and Google are pushing into automobiles, seeking to deploy their technology into new areas as cars become more advanced. Samsung Electronics had more than $70 billion of cash and marketable securities as of March 31, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

In addition to global leadership in smartphones, Samsung is the world’s biggest producer of memory chips and...