Porsche CEO steps down.  Makes way for VW merger?

UPDATE Porsche chief executive Wendelin Wiedeking is leaving the luxury sports car maker after 16 years at the helm, a move widely expected to clear the way for a merger with Volkswagen AG.

The board for Porsche Automobil Holding SE said Thursday that Wiedeking, 56, and chief financial officer Holger Haerter, 53, were leaving with immediate effect from the heavily indebted company that makes the 911, among other models.

The move — along with the announcement that Porsche will seek to raise funds, possibly from a Qatar investor — is expected to make it easier for Volkswagen and Porsche to merge given that Wiedeking, who had been CEO since 1992, opposed such a move.

"The measure shall create the foundation of building an integrated car manufacturing group with Porsche SE and Volkswagen AG," a company statement said.

Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, an expert on the automotive industry at the University of Duisberg-Essen, called any merger "a done deal" and said that "Qatar will now get on board in order to master the financial burden."

Porsche is grappling with some euro9 billion in debt it accumulated while building up a stake in Volkswagen in an unsuccessful takeover attempt.

Reaction to the announcement was met with skepticism by investors, who pushed Volkswagen shares down 2.6 percent to euro245.37 though Porsche shares were up nearly 1 percent euro52.09.

Wiedeking will be replaced by Michael Macht, 48, who currently oversees production, while personnel chief Thomas Edig will serve as his deputy, the board said.

VW and its chairman Ferdinand Piech have been pushing for a deal that would see it take 49 percent of Porsche and fold the lucrative luxury-car business into its portfolio, widening its range in anticipation of a recovery in the luxury market.

Piech also is part of the family that controls Porsche.

06/27/09 Volkswagen and its key shareholder, the state of Lower Saxony, have confronted Porsche with an ultimatum to accept a tie-up of the two carmakers under VW's tutelage or else face more severe financial turmoil, Web site Spiegel online reported.

Porsche Chief Executive Wendelin Wiedeking and Chairman Wolfgang Porsche have been urged to agree by the end of June that VW takes a 49 percent stake in Porsche's sports car business for 3-4 billion euros (2.6-3.4 billion pounds), Spiegel magazine reported in its online edition on Saturday, without saying who provided the information.

According to the proposal, the Emirate of Qatar would buy Porsche's stock options in VW, which would subsequently integrate the Porsche sports car business into its operations.

VW would not comment on the report. Porsche was not immediately available for comment, neither was the Emirate of Qatar.

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