Both former Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking and CFO Holger Haerter have been ordered to stand trial over the company’s failed takeover bid of Volkswagen.
Bloomberg is reporting that a Stuttgart appeals court has overturned a lower court’s decision in April that stated that there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed with the case brought against the two by prosecutors in December 2012.
Prosecutors allege that Porsche’s board gave the “de facto” go ahead for plans to take over Volkswagen in March of 2008. It wasn’t until October of that year that Porsche stated categorically that it wanted to complete a takeover of Volkswagen.
According to the Independent, lawyers for both Wiedeking and Haerter, as well as Porsche, claim that the charges are untrue, and that Porsche’s public statements about its intentions were true at the time.
The ruling means that the saga surrounding Porsche’s failed attempt to buy out the much larger Volkswagen group rumbles on. It also gives hope to hedge funds who have also been trying, unsuccessfully so far, to sue Porsche for stock market manipulation.
Porsche revealed, in the middle of 2005, that it had purchased over 20 per cent of Volkswagen to become its largest single shareholder. Around this time, according to an Automobile retrospective, Wiedeking went on the record to say that a takeover was not on the cards, instead Porsche was protecting “one of the world’s biggest car makers from corporate-raiding locusts”.
By October 2008 the Stuttgart firm had amassed 42.6 per cent of the larger company, as well as options buy to another 31.5 per cent. It was at this time that Porsche went on the public record saying that it wanted to complete a takeover of Volkswagen. This news sent Volkswagen shares hurtling through the roof, as speculators bought in and hedge funds scrambled to cover their short selling positions.
At one point Volkswagen became the world’s most valuable company, while Porsche had on-paper profits of around US$100 billion ($107 billion) from its shareholding.
If Porsche had managed to reach the 75 per cent mark, the smaller company would have been able to use a “domination and profit transfer” contract to clear out Volkswagen’s cash reserves of around eight billion euros ($11.3 billion). With Porsche wracking up an estimated 10 billion euros ($14.1 billion) of debt in its pursuit of Volkswagen, this infusion would have been proven timely.
With the world in the midst of the global financial crisis, as well as pressure from both the German government and the German state of Lower Saxony (a 20 per cent stakeholder in Volkswagen), Porsche’s creditors were unwilling to lend it more money to complete the takeover. In the end, thanks to its crushing debt load, Porsche was forced to concede defeat. Wiedeking’s parachute from the company he helped save was lined with 50 million euros ($70.4 million), while Haerter left the building an extra 12.5 million euro ($17.7 million) richer.
In 2012, Volkswagen completed a takeover of the speciality sports car maker that had once tried to swallow it whole.