BERLIN (Bloomberg) -- Porsche SE may win a second victory in a legal battle with investors over its aborted takeover of Volkswagen Group after a judge said its actions were sly but not necessarily illegal.
The Stuttgart-based holding company is fighting German lawsuits seeking a combined 5 billion euros ($6.9 billion) over its aborted takeover of VW.
Judge Stefan Puhle, who presided at a hearing on Wednesday, said the court has doubts about the 213 million euro case brought by HWO, a unit of Merckle Group, over Porsche's public statements.
"What Porsche did was maybe what we call slyness," Puhle said. "But was it also so morally wrong that it leads to legal liability? Slyness is generally highly valued on the markets. It's called cleverness."
The assessment is preliminary and may still change after deliberations, he said.
Porsche is facing market-manipulation allegations after it disclosed in October 2008 that it had access to 74.1 percent of VW, partly through cash-settled options. It has been steadily adding to its win list in the dispute. The company in March won dismissal of a related 1.4 billion euro action by 23 hedge funds in a Stuttgart court.
Last month, Stuttgart judges threw out criminal charges over the issue against former Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking and ex-Chief Financial Officer Holger Haerter. The Braunschweig tribunal already dismissed another two smaller civil cases in 2012.
HWO bundled its own claims and those by two other Merckle units. The suit claims the companies lost money because its manager at the time, the late Adolf Merckle, relied on Porsche’s repeated 2008 statements that it wasn’t seeking to take over Volkswagen.
The billionaire bet that VW shares would fall and went short on the stock after another statement Porsche issued on Sept. 16, 2004, when the shares were priced just above 200 euros. The stock surged after Porsche said on Oct. 26, 2008, that it had changed its stance and was seeking a majority stake in VW. HWO claims Merckle had to sell on Oct. 28, 2008, when the stock almost reached 1,000 euros.