2013 Porsche Boxster S, latest car from the world class Italian car maker (Photo : Porsche)
World class Italian luxury car maker seems to be in troubled waters.
Investors claiming Porsche SE misled them about plans to take over Volkswagen in 2008, will head to German courtrooms on Wednesday for the first time, pushing demands for more than 4 billion euros ($5 billion) in damages.
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A regional court in northern town Brunswick will open hearings on four lawsuits on Wednesday morning. A fifth case, brought by Elliott Associates and other U.S. investment funds and accounting for 2 billion euros of damages alone, has yet to be scheduled.
German and U.S. investors say that throughout 2008 Porsche camouflaged its plans to acquire VW and instead secretly piled up its holding. In March 2008, the sportscar maker dismissed as "speculation" intentions to take over the much-bigger VW, which builds more cars in a week than Porsche does in a year.
Seven months later, Porsche said it controlled 42.6 percent of VW's common shares and cash-settled options for another 31.5 percent of the stock it had not disclosed previously. The German state of Lower Saxony, where VW is based, holds 20 percent of Europe's biggest auto manufacturer.
The risks related to pending lawsuits caused VW to drop initial plans for a merger with Porsche's holding company. VW is now aiming to buy the remainder of Porsche's auto-making operations at minimum taxation costs.
Porsche SE, the publicly traded holding company that owns stakes of just over 50 percent in the German sportscar maker and in VW, has repeatedly denied the allegations.
"The plaintiffs before the Brunswick court are professional investors who deliberately took a huge gamble and backed the wrong horse," a spokesman for the Stuttgart-based company said.
German group ARFB will raise the highest claims at the hearing on Wednesday, representing investment funds seeking damages of 351 million euros from Porsche and 1.8 billion euros from both, Porsche and VW. A VW spokesman has said the case was "unfounded."
The court will decide on Wednesday whether ARFB must give proof that it is able to shoulder the process costs in the event of defeat. It was unclear when the court will hear the actual case.