FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Porsche Automobil Holding SE on Thursday denied a report that its main shareholders planned to sell the group’s sports car business to its Volkswagen unit as a way to reduce the holding company’s debt.
“This is nonsense,” spokesman Anton Hunger said. “If this were the case then we would have to publish a statement because other shareholders would be affected.” He added that no such statement was being worked on.
The Bloomberg news agency, citing two people familiar with the matter, reported on Thursday that the Porsche and Piech families — who control all the votes in the holding company — planned to sell Porsche AG and its eastern European dealer network to VW, Europe’s biggest carmaker to help pay down its debt.
Porsche Automobil, which has already spent about 23 billion euros to gain control of nearly 51 percent in Volkswagen, has said it plans to raise its VW voting stake to 75 percent as early as this year should economic conditions allow.
However, analysts have increasingly questioned whether Porsche Automobil can afford to take the step, which is likely to cost at least 13 billion euros, as the holding company has 9 billion euros ($11.72 billion) in net debt.
The holding company acknowledged on Thursday that it had become harder to pay down its debt in recent months due to the worsening economic climate.
This rising cost of debt has caused Porsche to consider alternative ways of raising money over the long term, including selling assets, people familiar with the matter said.
The sources said that the two families could sell other assets if Porsche Automobil needed additional funding.
The families could sell Porsche Holding GmbH, the Salzburg-based company that is a wholesale supplier of Porsche, VW, Audi, Seat, Skoda, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti vehicles to dealerships in Austria and southeastern Europe, one person familiar with the matter said.
The person said that selling Porsche Holding GmbH — which had 12.8 billion euros ($16.67 billion) in turnover in the 2007-2008 fiscal year — was “one theoretical possibility among many” and “no urgent action was required.”
The families were not immediately available for comment.
Financing woes have already forced Deutsche Bank AG to renegotiate the terms of its takeover of Deutsche Postbank AG, and Commerzbank AG to revamp its takeover of Dresdner Bank.
Automotive supplier Schaeffler has even appealed for bailout money from the government so it can complete its takeover of Continental AG.
Analysts at Credit Suisse said on Thursday that the sale of assets by Porsche to VW is “the most logical end-game” as a way to pay down debt at the holding company.
Additional reporting by Hendrik Sackmann in Stuttgart; editing by Karen Foster