Volkswagen raised the prospect of a friendly takeover of Scania by MAN when the German carmaker announced yesterday it had bought a 15 per cent stake in MAN, making it the biggest shareholder in both the Swedish and German truckmakers.
The move follows VW’s rejection two weeks ago of a €9.6bn ($12.3bn) hostile takeover approach for Scania, in which it has a 34 per cent voting stake.
VW said it hoped “to be able to support the industrial logic of creating synergies between MAN and Scania” while including its Brazilian heavy-truck assets but again rejected a hostile approach. It also said the MAN offer for Scania, which treats the high-vote A shares held by VW the same as the low-vote B shares, “does not reflect the fair value of VW’s voting rights and economic interest in Scania”.
Steve Cheetham at Sanford Bernstein said the purchase showed the cosy industrial relations of “Deutschland AG” were still at work, coming on top of carmaker Porsche’s purchase of a 21 per cent stake in VW. “VW management appears at this stage to be more interested in German industrial policy than cash for shareholders.”
People close to VW and MAN said they expected the German truckmaker to raise its offer for Scania.
MAN views Investor, the holding company for Sweden’s Wallenberg family that has a 19 per cent voting stake, as the last obstacle. “The time has come now for them to swallow Swedish and family pride, and sell,” a person close to the German group said. Investor said it was told by VW of its purchase and remained “open to all alternatives”.
Scania noted the change in the situation. MAN welcomed the investment by VW, saying it would make it easier for VW to reach the critical 25 per cent holding that allows it to block key decisions.
VW, which was advised by UBS, said that it bought the stake “in the light of indications in the market of a hostile takeover attempt of MAN by third parties”. Suggestions that Volvo was looking at MAN were denied by people close to the Swedish truckmaker.
Some MAN directors have raised concerns during supervisory board meetings that the rejection of the bid for Scania could leave the German group open to takeover itself.