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July 21, 2009

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Potential tax could kill Porsche deal

ANY deal to sell Porsche SE's sports car business to Volkswagen could be scuppered by potential tax liabilities, a German newspaper reported yesterday, knocking shares in the two German companies.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung cited sources close to Porsche's supervisory board as saying taxes of 3 billion euros (US$4.3 billion) that would go along with any takeover could break the deal.

Porsche and Volkswagen declined to comment on the report.

Volkswagen's ordinary shares shed 9.2 percent to 227.03 euros by 11:17 GMT, making them the biggest decliners on the German blue-chip index.GDAXI, while Porsche fell 7.9 percent to 47.80 euros on fears its debt problem may not be solved.

There have been reports the Porsche family that controls a majority of Porsche SE will cave in to demands by rival family shareholder Ferdinand Piech to reduce the company's crushing debt by sacking Chief Executive Wendelin Wiedeking and selling the sports car unit, Porsche AG, to VW.

Porsche, along with labour leader and deputy board member Uwe Hueck, has repeatedly denied reports that Wiedeking was negotiating for a severance package of over 100 million euros and a successor for his post as head of Porsche AG has been found.

The report came ahead of board meetings at both firms in Stuttgart on Thursday that could determine the future of the two car makers.

Deal in question

"3 billion euros is quite a bit of money and could put the entire business structure in question," a Frankfurt-based trader said.

German magazine Der Spiegel reported over the weekend that the Porsche and Piech families would agree on Thursday to accept an offer by VW to buy Porsche AG for roughly 8 billion euros.

VW would purchase a 49.9 percent stake in Porsche AG and at a later date acquire the rest, in a deal that would create an integrated automotive group with 10 brands under the leadership of the Wolfsburg-based car maker and its chairman, Ferdinand Piech.

Porsche SE needs to dig itself out of a debt hole and strengthen its negotiating position after its efforts to seize full control of VW - Europe's biggest car maker - failed, leaving it with nearly 51 percent stake.

But the Porsche and Piech families - which control all the voting shares at Porsche SE - have been at loggerheads for months over how to resolve its debt woes and the role VW would play in the whole deal.

The sale of Porsche AG would help Porsche SE pay off most of its debt, which German daily Bild reported had risen to 14 billion euros, citing an informed source. A spokesman for Porsche denied the Bild report: "The figure is wrong."

Porsche has also been in talks on a deal with Qatar that would give the Gulf state a 20 percent stake in Volkswagen via derivative contracts.


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