Porsche seeks financial boost for VW deal

By Tessa Walsh and Arno Schuetze

LONDON/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Porsche Automobil Holding cast a wide net on Tuesday in search of political and financial allies for its struggle to bolster its finances and revive merger talks with Volkswagen.

Porsche is attempting to rekindle talks to create a combined automotive group after Volkswagen froze negotiations saying it needed greater insight into Porsche's finances.

Porsche, which holds nearly 51 percent of VW's voting stock, has been forced to scale down an attempt to buy up 75 percent of VW and is also focussed on paying down its 9 billion euros in net debt.

Its finances have become a focal point of attempts to strike a deal.

Porsche in March tried to drum up 12.5 billion euros in loans to refinance its debt, but only managed to get 10 billion. Its lenders have committed only about 750 million euros of the extra 2.5 billion in loans it seeks, a banker familiar with the deal said.

A spokesman for the company said Porsche was "well on its way" to getting the additional loan.

Porsche was supposed to get its first debt rating by the end of this month, but these efforts are now on hold, banking sources said.

That move potentially delays efforts to shed light on its finances and increases its cost of borrowing.

POLITICAL BOOST

In a boost for Porsche though, it got political backing from its home state of Baden-Wuerttemberg and said it was in "promising talks" with an outside investor. Porsche declined to elaborate on details about the potential investor.

The emirate of Qatar has expressed interest in the past.

Guenther Oettinger, the premier of Baden-Wuerttemberg, said he would do "everything legally and economically possible" to ensure that Porsche develops strongly.

He was responding to a newspaper report that said the state could provide Porsche with 2 billion euros in guarantees.

Oettinger said he was reviewing with Porsche how "stable development" can be ensured over the next one to two years.

Still, any deal struck between Porsche and VW will need the consent of Christian Wulff, the premier of VW's home state of Lower Saxony.

Lower Saxony owns just over 20 percent of VW, and by law can veto significant decisions at Europe's biggest carmaker.

Outside investors could own 30 percent of a combined Porsche/VW, a spokesman for Lower Saxony said, confirming remarks by Wulff.

Porsche could own just over 50 percent, with Lower Saxony retaining its 20 percent stake as well as the right to veto significant decisions, the spokesman added.

Porsche shares edged up 0.5 percent to 41.40 euros by 3:42 p.m. while Volkswagen shares slipped 0.7 percent.

(Reporting by Tessa Walsh, Arno Schuetze, Jan Schwartz and Hendrik Sackmann; Editing by Andrew Callus)

Article Published: 19/05/2009