Volkswagen Backs Porsche Takeover as Trade Union Protests

The union objects to Porshe's intention to bring both automakers under the umbrella of a holding company that would give workers from each group the same number of seats on its supervisory board.

The head of Volkswagen, Martin Winterkorn, addressed a general assembly of VW shareholders on April 24 to defend an eventual takeover by the sports car maker Porsche despite union protests."We are pleased that Porsche has said it wants to take a majority holding in Volkswagen," the biggest European carmaker, Winterkorn told around 4,000 investors in this northern port.

"With Porsche and the regional state of Lower Saxony, Volkswagen stands on a solid foundation," the VW chairman added, even though the company's two biggest shareholders were battling intensely for influence over the group.

Porsche owns 31% of VW, and the state where VW is based owns just over 20%. They strongly oppose certain statutes and a so-called VW Law which gives Lower Saxony a virtual veto over strategic decisions such as plant relocations. A meeting of the VW supervisory board on April 23 failed to come up with a compromise position, company sources said. Lower Saxony got backing on April 24 from the German trade union IG Metall, which staged a demonstration near the general assembly with red flags and banners that poked fun at Porsche chief executive Wendelin Wiedeking.

One of the union's main objections is that Porsche intends to bring both automakers under the umbrella of a holding company that would give workers from each group the same number of seats on its supervisory board. VW workers outnumber those at Porsche by a ratio of about 30 to one.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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