Volkswagen shares jump, sparking questions over 'mystery' buyer

Revelations that the German auto giant fitted 11 million cars with devices aimed at cheating pollution tests sent the stock plunging.
Revelations that the German auto giant fitted 11 million cars with devices aimed at cheating pollution tests sent the stock plunging.EPA

BERLIN (AFP) - Volkswagen stock surged more than 8 per cent on Friday despite the massive global pollution cheating scandal engulfing the group, sparking speculation over a “mystery” buyer snapping up the shares.

Revelations that the German auto giant had fitted 11 million cars with devices aimed at cheating pollution tests have sent the stock plunging to half its value in two weeks, effectively wiping out over 25 billion euros (S$40 billion) of market capitalisation.

But VW shares staged a strong recovery on Friday, ending the week 8.35 per cent up at 125.90 euros.

Although several banks put a buy rating on the stock last week, Friday’s large movements sparked talk that a major investor was purchasing the stock in bulk.

“It’s not insignificant,” a market source told AFP.

Daily Bild wrote of a “mysterious jump” and cited market rumours that the Porsche and Piech families – both major shareholders of Volkswagen group, were in the market to buy.

The rumour is sustained by the fact that it is the ordinary share – which confers voting rights to the holder – which is showing a big jump.

The other preferential share offers dividends but gives the holder less say over the company.

The two families, heirs of the inventor of the Beetle and the founder of Volkswagen, have through their holding in Porsche SE a controlling stake of 52.2 per cent in VW group.

Immediately after the VW scandal broke, Porsche SE had tightened its grip on the group by purchasing 1.5 per cent of Volkswagen shares from Suzuki.

Meanwhile, Germany’s metal industry issued a statement Friday voicing fears of the impact of the VW crisis on their businesses.

“A third of German metallurgists generate at least 20 per cent of their revenues as direct or indirect suppliers of Volkswagen,” said federation chief Thomas Reuther in a statement.

He said the sector fears a drop of about 10 per cent in orders and warned that job cuts could not be ruled out in the medium term.

Other VW suppliers were less pessimistic, with some car equipment companies saying other auto makers could fill in the space left by Volkswagen.