BMW's Klatten holds VW at bay with blocking stake in carbon fiber maker
FRANKFURT – BMW AG board member Susanne Klatten has bought a blocking minority stake in SGL Group to keep Volkswagen AG at bay in a tussle over influence at the carbon fiber specialist.
SGL said that Klatten raised her stake in the company, via her investment vehicle Skion, to 27.3 percent and aimed to lift it to about 29 percent over the next 12 months, up from 22 percent previously. The rise in her stake now allows her the right to veto strategic decisions in the company.
In February, VW surprised stock markets by acquiring an 8.18 percent stake in SGL, a German manufacturer of carbon products, though it said it would not raise its stake to more than 10 percent.
VW's move prompted Klatten to announce she could easily get a blocking minority stake in SGL if needed and that she was observing VW's actions with vigilance.
A spokesman for Skion said the investment group currently had no plans for a full takeover of SGL.
SGL entered into a cooperation on lightweight carbon parts for BMW's new i3 electric car. It has said it does not rule out collaboration agreements with other carmakers.
SGL said on Wednesday that Skion would continue to influence the appointment of top executives and directors.
Klatten, a member of the Quandt family, holds a 12.6 percent stake in BMW, while her family, which is BMW's biggest shareholder, holds 46 percent of the company's shares.
Use of carbon fiber in cars
The main challenge for carmakers aiming to use carbon fiber in mass-market vehicles will be to drive down production costs, which have so far limited use of carbon parts to the most expensive sports cars, such as Volkswagen's Lamborghini brand.
BMW's domestic rival Daimler AG set up a carbon fiber joint venture with Toray Industries. Unlike BMW, who is eyeing a mass market in urban areas, Daimler will start using the material in a niche product, its convertible coupe SL class.
Volkswagen's VW brand has used the material for a ultra-fuel-efficient prototype -- introduced in January -- that uses less than a liter of petrol for 100 kilometers (62 miles).
VW's premium-car unit Audi is working together with German industrial conglomerate Voith to develop carbon fiber reinforced components for its cars. Voith is SGL's third-largest shareholder with a stake of about 5 percent.
Reuters contributed to this report
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