Brussels forces VW to delay MAN plans

Volkswagen bowed to European Union pressure on Monday and delayed its bid to take effective control of the board of truckmaker MAN amid EU antitrust concerns.

Brussels forces VW to delay MAN plans
Photo: DPA

VW chairman Ferdinand Piëch announced at the annual meeting of MAN shareholders on Monday that the names of three top VW executives would be withdrawn as candidates for the MAN board.

The EU’s executive arm recently spoke out against the candidacy of the three men for the board. VW wanted to gain control of MAN so that it could partner the truck maker with its own subsidiary Scania. It’s unclear how Monday’s move will affect that goal.

VW had named its CEO Martin Winterkorn, chief financial officer Hans Dieter Pötsch and head of the commercial vehicles division Jochem Heizmann as candidates for the MAN board. But all three sit on the Scania board, giving rise to anti-competition concerns.

In a statement released Monday, VW said it was “currently engaged in constructive discussions with the EU Commission in order to receive merger control clearance for a closer cooperation between MAN, Scania and Volkswagen.”

“The existing antitrust hurdles currently limit the ability to realize substantial synergies among these companies significantly. Therefore Volkswagen aims to overcome these hurdles.”

VW, Europe’s largest carmaker, is trying to raise its stake in MAN ahead of marrying it to Scania. It launched a mandatory offer for MAN last month, triggered by its stake in the company creeping slightly above 30 percent. The share offer expires on Wednesday.

Small shareholders reacted angrily to the candidature of the three VW executives, saying the move breached German corporate governance rules.

Shareholders are being asked now to approve the re-election of board members Ulf Berkenhagen, procurement chief at VW’s Audi unit, and Thomas Kremer, legal counselor at ThyssenKrupp AG. A third new candidate has also been put up: Munich lawyer Matthias Bruse.

Meanwhile, MAN boss Georg Pachta-Reyhofen defended plans for closer co-operation with Scania, saying that both partners as well as VW were convinced of the “industrial logic” of working together.

“Partnering with powerful players like Scania and VW opens up a whole world of new opportunities,” Pachta-Reyhofen told shareholders. “The next big change might be in store for us, and MAN may be becoming part of a bigger picture.”

The Local/DAPD/djw

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Two hospitalized in Munich after activist crashes parachute into Euro 2020 stadium

At least two people were hospitalised Tuesday after a Greenpeace activist crash-landed on the pitch before the Germany-France match at Euro 2020 when his powered parachute microlight struck spidercam cables at Munich's Allianz Arena.

Two hospitalized in Munich after activist crashes parachute into Euro 2020 stadium
The activist lands on the turf of the Allianz Arena. credit: dpa | Christian Charisius

The pilot flew over the pitch just before kick-off in the Group F clash with “Kick out oil” written on the canopy of his parachute.

However, when the pilot hit television cables above the pitch, it knocked his microlight off balance and he landed on the turf after clipping one of the stands, where the casualties happened.

The activist was arrested soon after landing.

A Munich police spokesman told AFP that at least two people suffered head injuries and “both had to be taken to hospital, we don’t know yet how serious the injuries are”.

The police spokesman said the activist appears to have escaped injury, but “we are considering various criminal charges. Munich police has zero understanding for political actions that put lives at risk”.

UEFA also slammed the botched stunt.

“This inconsiderate act – which could have had very serious consequences for a huge number of people attending – caused injuries to several people attending the game who are now in hospital and law authorities will take the necessary action,” European football’s governing body said in a statement.

The parachutist above the stadium. Photo: dpa | Matthias Balk

“The staging of the match was fortunately not impacted by such a reckless and dangerous action, but several people were injured nonetheless.”

The stunt was a protest against German car manufacturer Volkswagen, one of the sponsors of the European Championship, Greenpeace explained in a Twitter post.

“UEFA and its partners are fully committed to a sustainable Euro 2020 tournament and many initiatives have been implemented to offset carbon emissions,” said UEFA.

Greenpeace said they regretted any harm caused.

“This protest was never intended to disrupt the game or hurt people,” read a Twitter post on Greenpeace’s official German account.

“We hope that everyone is OK and that no one was seriously injured. Greenpeace actions are always peaceful and non-violent.”

“Unfortunately, not everything went according to plan.”

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