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Porsche takes over Volkswagen

AFP · 6 Jan 2009, 09:13

Published: 06 Jan 2009 09:13 GMT+01:00

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The German luxury sports car maker Porsche has taken over Volkswagen, the biggest European car manufacturer, after purchasing more than 50 percent of VW shares, Porsche said late on Monday.

Porsche said in a brief statement that by buying new VW shares, it "will thus increase its participation to 50.76 percent" of the group's capital, compared with 42 percent before.

As a result, Porsche is now obliged by Swedish law to make an offer for outstanding shares in the heavy truck maker Scania, in which VW is the dominant shareholder.

But Porsche will offer a minimum price for Scania shares and has no "strategic interest" in the company, the statement said.

Porsche had initially planned to acquire more than 50 percent of VW's stock last year but was forced to delay the operation after the value of the shares soared amid frantic stock market speculation.

At one point, they traded for more than €1,000 ($1,350) per share, making VW briefly the biggest company in the world by stock market valuation.

On Monday, VW shares closed at €254.74, close to the range Porsche had set for itself of between €200-250 .

VW said in August that it had overtaken Ford to become the world's third biggest automaker behind General Motors and Toyota.

Porsche's takeover sees a family-controlled company that makes 100,000 expensive sports cars a year take control of a national institution that churns out five million vehicles annually.

Porsche, which makes the 911 sports car and Cayenne sports utility vehicle, plans to raise its stake in VW to more than 75 percent this year, with which it expects to gain total control over the group.

Having more than 75 percent would allow it to seal a so-called domination contract giving it full financial control.

In Germany, a minority investor that owns 25 percent of a company's shares can block strategic decisions, but in the case of VW that level is currently set by law at 20 percent, the amount owned by the state of Lower Saxony, where VW is based.

Porsche has challenged the so-called VW law and has received support from the European Commission, which has threatened to haul Berlin into European court again after a revised version of the law retained the 20 percent minority blocking threshold.

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Porsche built up its stake in the much bigger VW through the use of stock options that allowed it to catch markets by surprise last year with the size of its holding.

VW's works committee is wary of the takeover however and of Porsche boss Wendelin Wiedeking, who has crossed swords with trade unions, which are extremely powerful at VW.

VW posted sales of €109 billion in 2007, while Porsche, which employs 11,600 workers, reported sales of €7 billion in its 2006-2007 fiscal year.

The IG Metall trade union fears a Porsche takeover would lead to job cuts at German VW plants, despite assurances from Porsche that it is a long-term investor in the auto giant.

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