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VW poised to make full bid for MAN SE

Volkswagen is poised to expand its automotive empire by making a full takeover bid for German truckmaker MAN SE, a German newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing an unidentified company executive.

Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech, also the chairman of MAN, has dropped several hints this year that MAN, in which VW owns just below 30% stake, is on his radar screen as he tries to revive plans for a three-way truck alliance with Swedish unit Scania.

VW, Europe's biggest carmaker, has been expanding, acquiring a 49.9% stake in the sports car business of Porsche early in December and a deal unveiled last week that would give it a one-fifth stake in Japan's Suzuki Motor.

MAN already owns a 17.4% voting stake in Scania after an abortive takeover bid it launched in 2006 that drove its Swedish rival into the arms of Volkswagen, which now has a voting stake of around 71% in Scania.

Volkswagen and MAN declined to comment on the report by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, based in MAN's hometown of Munich.

“The offer will come,” the paper quoted an unidentified executive as saying.

Analyst Frank Biller of LBBW said he saw a good chance Volkswagen would take the wheel at MAN by June 2010 because before that date it would still be possible to acquire more shares in MAN and pay for them by swapping VW's own shares in Scania.

“It makes absolute sense that they come to an agreement before summer,” Biller said.

“Up to this date, MAN has an authorized capital of up to 50% which makes it possible to transfer the Scania stake (held by VW) to MAN against new MAN shares,” Biller said.

Biller said in this scenario, a merger of MAN and Scania could involve simply getting approval from the supervisory boards and need not go through the expensive and tedious process of calling for extraordinary shareholders meetings.

He said it would also mean Volkswagen would have to make a mandatory offer for the shares it does not hold in MAN.

The departure of three top MAN executives this month has fueled speculation MAN might be pressured by Volkswagen to make a bid for Scania. (Reuters)