Porsche set to take majority in Volkswagen

The moves could put Porsche Automobil Holding in a position also to absorb a new commercial truck giant.

Europe could see a new automobile and truck empire emerge after Porsche set the stage Monday for a drive to take a majority stake in Volkswagen - just as VW said it would amass a controlling interest in Swedish truck maker Scania. The moves could put Porsche Automobil Holding SE - which owns Porsche and a nearly 31 percent stake in Volkswagen AG - in a position also to absorb a new commercial truck giant combining Scania with Munich-based MAN AG, of which Volkswagen holds a 29.9% stake. Analysts said both deals boiled down to the basic idea of making money - lots of it. Porsche has been steadily raising its stake in Volkswagen for more than a year and won a significant victory last year when the European Union's highest court ruled that the German government had to remove a cap on voting rights at VW. Porsche has said it does not plan to fully merge the companies, but the approval Porsche SE's supervisory board granted Monday for managers to build up its stake in Volkswagen opens up a realm of possibilities. Holding company Porsche SE came into being after the sports car maker boosted its stake in VW to nearly 31% last year. Since the European court ruling late last year, speculation had swirled over when Porsche actually might move to take a majority. Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking has said that owning a majority stake would help Porsche work with VW - whose brands include Audi, Skoda, Seat, Lamborghini and Bugatti - in developing new models, engines and other components. Analysts also say Porsche having a dominant and controlling stake in Volkswagen could help improve VW's weak showing in the US - a key market for Porsche. The next largest shareholder in VW is the German state of Lower Saxony, where the company's headquarters is located, which holds just more than 20%. That stake, along with what Porsche holds, means VW can afford not to worry about a foreign takeover. Whatever uncertainty remains about Porsche's plans for Volkswagen, VW seemed certain of its plans for Scania, agreeing to pay at least 7.6 billion kronor (€1.8b.) to buy key stakes in the Swedish truck maker from Investor AB and the Wallenberg Foundations. But Volkswagen tried to dampen hopes about a merger between MAN and Scania right away. Were such a tie-up to happen, however, a combined MAN-Scania coupled with VW's own commercial trucks unit would easily overshadow rivals like Volvo AB and Daimler AG as Europe's biggest truck maker.