Porsche on Wednesday gave another example of the dire outlook for the automotive industry when it said revenues had plunged 15 per cent in the past four months.
The highly profitable German sports carmaker said it expected revenues in the four months to the end of November to come in below €2bn ($2.6bn). Porsche said it expected unit sales to fall 18 per cent in the same period.
Wendelin Wiedeking, the carmaker’s chief executive, said the drop in demand was widespread with Asia and Russia also weak. “No market is immune against the current weakness in sales,” he said.
Mr Wiedeking said he expected sales to fall “considerably” in the fiscal year that ends in July 2009, which is likely to result in the first year-on-year sales drop since Mr Wiedeking became chief executive 16 years ago.
Porsche, the world’s most profitable carmaker, has launched a cost cutting programme to counter the downturn in demand, Mr Wiedeking said. He refused to give details, but said no job losses were planned.
Porsche on Wednesday backed away from its target to take majority control of Volkswagen by the end of the year, saying it was not willing to pay “ridiculous” prices for the shares of Europe’s biggest carmaker.
Mr Wiedeking said Porsche was “under no time pressure.” People close to the company told the FT that Porsche now aimed to lift its direct holding in VW from 42.6 per cent to 50 per cent at the beginning of next year.
Holger Härter, Porsche’s chief financial officer, said he considered a price of €200 a “reasonable” level for VW shares. After dropping sharply in the days before, VW’s share price rose more than 15 per cent to €294 on Wednesday.
Porsche’s revelation last month that it had secured more than 74 per cent of the carmaker’s shares by using derivatives led VW’s share price to quadruple. This inflicted heavy losses on investors that bet on a falling share price. Among the victims of these misplaced bets is Adolf Merckle, a German industrial billionaire.
Investors and analysts have dubbed Porsche a “hedge fund” after it raked in a profit of €6.8bn from VW option trades and just about €1bn from selling cars in the 12 months to the end of July.
Mr Wiedeking rejected this label, insisting Porsche simply followed an industrial logic with its takeover of VW and was using the derivatives to hedge against a rise in carmakers’ share price. “We are not speculators – we never have been and will never want to be.”
Porsche’s huge gains from VW option trades, which lifted the company’s profits above its revenue last year, could soon come to an end when it takes a majority stake in VW next year, Mr Wiedeking said.
“There will be times soon when the profits from these option deals will be over.” He reaffirmed Porsche’s goal to increase its stake in VW to 75 per cent in 2009.