File picture: Mario Anzuoni / Reuters.
File picture: Mario Anzuoni / Reuters.

Rome - Fiat-Chrysler Automotive (FCA) has denied having been asked by Chinese peer Great Wall to sell its iconic American sports utility vehicle brand Jeep, a rumour that has triggered some market excitement.

FCA "has not been approached by Great Wall Motors in connection with the Jeep brand or any other matter relating to its business," the Italo-American company said in a statement Monday. However, that statement was contradicted by the Chinese company within hours.

Nonetheless, the denial took the edge off a rally on FCA's share price on the Milan stock exchange, which jumped earlier Monday by about 4 per cent.

At around 11:45 am (0945 GMT) FCA's stock was up 2.8 per cent, to 11 euros (12.9 dollars).

Hours earlier, specialized US website Automotive News reported that it received an email from Great Wall President Wang Fengying saying her company was "connecting with FCA" to begin negotiations on Jeep.

File picture: Mario Anzuoni / Reuters.

A Great Wall official confirmed to dpa that the company was working on the deal.

"Yes, we are interested" in buying Jeep, "and we are right now considering it," Zhao Lijia, a public relations manager for Great Wall's Haval SUV brand, said.

Automotive News had reported seven days ago that an unnamed Chinese carmaker was interested in buying the whole of FCA. That report found no confirmation from several Chinese auto firms, but nevertheless triggered another FCA share price rally.

Fiat and Chrysler merged in 2014, forming the world's seventh-largest automotive group. As well as Jeep, it includes brands like Ram, Alfa Romeo and Maserati.

FCA boss Sergio Marchionne has repeatedly suggested that the company needs a tie-up with another carmaker to ensure its long-term future.

A deal with a Chinese partner, however, may run into opposition from US President Donald Trump, given his protectionist views on the economy and past criticism of China.