BERLIN – The holding company of German carmaker Porsche
The action from HWO, a firm linked to the family of Adolf Merckle, has been brought at a court in Braunschweig, northern Germany, where Porsche SE already faces damage claims exceeding 4 billion euros from investor lawsuits over the same issue.
"We consider this to be unfounded and we will defend ourselves," a spokesman for Porsche said on Thursday, confirming the lawsuit had been received. German magazine Wirtschaftswoche reported the HWO suit earlier on Thursday.
In January, the Merckle family confirmed it would seek damages from Porsche SE via conciliation proceedings, but the Stuttgart-based holding company declined to pay, according to the Porsche SE spokesman.
Billionaire Adolf Merckle committed suicide in January 2009 while his business empire, including stakes in HeidelbergCement and drug wholesaler Phoenix Pharmahandel, crumbled following bets on VW, increasing debt and a drop in the value of HeidelbergCement stock.
Plaintiffs have accused Porsche SE of camouflaging its takeover plans in 2008 and secretly piling up a holding in VW.
When Porsche SE disclosed its stake in October 2008, VW common shares surged to 1,005 euros within days, briefly making VW the world's most valuable company as short-sellers such as Merckle raced to buy back stock they had borrowed to bet that VW shares would drop.
The Braunschweig court dismissed two minor lawsuits against Porsche SE on September 19, sending a discouraging signal to claimants including Elliott Associates and other U.S. investment funds seeking damages.
($1 = 0.7751 euros)
(Reporting by Andreas Cremer and Christiaan Hetzner; Editing by Mark Potter)