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Porsche takes over Volkswagen

Porsche takes over Volkswagen
File photo of a parade float. Photo: DPA

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.

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.

CARS

From lizards to water, eco-bumps snag Tesla’s giant Berlin car factory

In the green forest outside Berlin, a David and Goliath-style battle is playing out between electric carmaker Tesla and environmental campaigners who want to stop its planned "gigafactory".

From lizards to water, eco-bumps snag Tesla's giant Berlin car factory
Tesla's gigafactory outside the doors of Berlin. dpa-Zentralbild | Patrick Pleul

“When I saw on TV that the Tesla factory was going to be built here, I couldn’t believe it,” said Steffen Schorch, driving his trusty German-made car.

The 60-year-old from Erkner village in the Berlin commuter belt has become one of the faces of the fight against the US auto giant’s first European factory, due to open in the Brandenburg region near Berlin in July.

“Tesla needs far too much water, and the region does not have this water,” said the environmental activist, a local representative of the Nabu ecologist campaign group.

Announced in November 2019, Tesla’s gigafactory project was warmly welcomed as an endorsement of the “Made in Germany” quality mark – but was immediately met with opposition from local residents.

Demonstrations, legal action, open letters – residents have done everything in their power to delay the project, supported by powerful
environmental campaign groups Nabu and Gruene Liga.

Tesla was forced to temporarily suspend forest clearing last year after campaigners won an injunction over threats to the habitats of resident lizards and snakes during their winter slumber.

READ MORE: Is Germany’s Volkswagen becoming ‘the new Tesla’ as it ramps up e-vehicle production?

And now they have focused their attention on water consumption – which could reach up to 3.6 million cubic metres a year, or around 30 percent of the region’s available supply, according to the ZDF public broadcaster.

The extra demand could place a huge burden on a region already affected by water shortages and hit by summer droughts for the past three years.

Local residents and environmentalists are also concerned about the impact on the wetlands, an important source of biodiversity in the region.

Tesla Street

“The water situation is bad, and will get worse,” Heiko Baschin, a spokesman for the neighbourhood association IG Freienbrink, told AFP.

Brandenburg’s environment minister Axel Vogel sought to play down the issue, saying in March that “capacity has not been exceeded for now”.

But the authorities admit that “the impact of droughts is significant” and have set up a working group to examine the issue in the long term.

The gigafactory is set to sprawl over 300 hectares – equivalent to approximately 560 football fields – southwest of the German capital.

Tesla is aiming to produce 500,000 electric vehicles a year at the plant, which will also be home to “the largest battery factory in the world”,
according to group boss Elon Musk.

In a little over a year and a half, swathes of coniferous forest have already been cleared to make way for vast concrete rectangles on a red earth base, accessed via the already iconic Tesla Strasse (Tesla Street).

German bureaucracy

The new site still has only provisional construction permits, but Tesla has been authorised by local officials to begin work at its own risk.

Final approval depends on an assessment of the project’s environmental impact – including the issue of water.

In theory, if approval is not granted, Tesla will have to dismantle the entire complex at its own expense.

But “pressure is being exerted (on the regulatory authorities), linked to Tesla’s significant investment”, Gruene Liga’s Michael Greschow told AFP.

In early April, Tesla said it was “irritated” by the slow pace of German bureaucracy, calling for exceptions to the rules for projects that help the environment.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier agreed in April that his government “had not done enough” to reduce bureaucracy, lauding the gigafactory as a “very important project”.

Despite Germany’s reputation for efficiency, major infrastructure projects are often held up by bureaucracy criticised as excessive by the business community.

Among the most embarrassing examples are Berlin’s new airport which opened last October after an eight-year delay and Stuttgart’s new train station, which has been under construction since 2010.

Brandenburg’s economy minister, Joerg Steinbach, raised the possibility in February that the Tesla factory could be delayed beyond its July planned opening for the same reason.

SEE ALSO: Tesla advertises over 300 jobs for new Gigafactory near Berlin

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