LUCA CIFERRI

Crashing share price will stall VW-Suzuki divorce

Luca Ciferri is chief correspondent at Automotive News EuropeLuca Ciferri is chief correspondent at Automotive News Europe
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It is no longer a secret that Suzuki wants to cut its partnership ties with Volkswagen Group and buy back the 19.9 percent stake the German automaker bought in the Japanese company in December 2009.

The trouble is that Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn says Europe's largest automaker has no plans to sell the stake because the value of the shares has plummeted during the recent dip in the global financial markets.

At the end of July, VW's Suzuki stake had a market value of $2.62 billion – that is well below the $2.9 billion that VW paid.

Things got worse last month as the value of the stake slid to $2.24 billion.

Given the volatility of the global economy, it seems very unlikely that the automakers could decide on a fair price for Suzuki to pay to buy back the stake.

If Suzuki wants to cut its VW ties immediately, it would have to pay a big premium compared with the current market value.

VW has all the leverage because it is sitting on a 20-billion euro war chest, which means it could easily delay a share sale until the market revives.

You can reach Luca Ciferri at lciferri@crain.com.

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