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CNH Industrial targets investment grade credit rating

MILAN (Reuters) - Truck and tractor maker CNH Industrial is aiming for an investment grade credit rating and could distribute the money saved on interest payments to shareholders, the group formed from the merger of Fiat Industrial and its CNH unit said.

The company also confirmed its 2013 revenues targets in a presentation to investors on Friday.

Fiat Industrial's merger with its CNH unit takes effect on Monday, when the combined group's shares shift their primary listing from Milan to New York.

Analysts think the merged firm should benefit from lower interest rate costs that comes with easier access to U.S. credit markets, as well as from pooled cash management leading to a possible credit rating upgrade.

"The top financial priority is to achieve an investment-grade credit rating, with the potential to substantially reduce interest expense," the company said in the presentation, adding it could eventually distribute the savings to shareholders.

CNH was also listed in New York, but its small stock flotation meant institutional investors could not buy its shares because they need to invest in liquid stocks.

CNH Industrial Chairman Sergio Marchionne is meeting with investors in the United States to coincide with the listing.

After the merger takes effect, CNH Industrial will move its corporate headquarters to the Netherlands, where corporate law is similar to the United States, and shift its tax residency to the UK to benefit from a lower tax rate.

The combined group sees revenue growth of 3-4 percent in 2013, and net industrial debt of 1.4-1.6 billion euros.

Fiat Industrial builds construction equipment, agricultural machinery and trucks in 190 countries and employs over 65,000 people. The new company will drop the word "Fiat" and its center of gravity will shift away from Italy, where Fiat was founded 114 years ago.

Marchionne, who is also CEO of Fiat , has previously said the Fiat Industrial-CNH merger was one of the blueprints for a future Fiat-Chrysler marriage. Fiat owns 58.5 percent of U.S. automaker Chrysler and wants to buy the rest.

Fiat Industrial shares were 1 percent lower at 9.81 euros on Friday, their last day of trading under that name. The secondary listing in Milan of CNH Industrial shares will debut in the afternoon on Monday.

Fiat Industrial shares have risen 20 percent so far this year in anticipation of the merger's benefits, while shares at competitors John Deere and Caterpillar are down 2 percent and 5 percent respectively.

"We like the stock (CNH Industrial) because they have three businesses that are under-earning right now, so their mix makes the stock attractive," said CLSA analyst Ashish Gupta, who attended the investor presentation.

The merger is not expected to generate major operational synergies, said Kepler in a report in June.

(Reporting by Jennifer Clark; Editing by Jane Merriman and Mark Potter)

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