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Volkswagen faces shareholder wrath at AGM
[FRANKFURT] Embattled German auto giant Volkswagen will face the wrath of its shareholders at its annual meeting on Wednesday as it struggles to steer itself out of an unprecedented engine-rigging scandal.
Nine months after the "Dieselgate" affair, when it emerged VW had installed emissions-cheating software into 11 million diesel engines worldwide, the former paragon of German industry is still nowhere near drawing a line under its deepest ever crisis.
The costs of the affair are still incalculable and it is not yet known whether VW's own internal investigation will pinpoint the major culprits behind the scam.
But small shareholders are likely to use the upcoming AGM in the northern city of Hanover to let off steam at the way management has handled the affair, even if the power those shareholders wield remains limited.
They hold just 11 per cent of the voting rights in VW, while the founding families Porsche and Piech hold 52 per cent, the regional state of Lower Saxony 20 per cent and the Emirate of Qatar 17 per cent.
Ulrich Hocker, head of the DSW association of small shareholders, told AFP he has been attending the company's AGMs for the past 20 years and he expects this one to be "very different, very contentious".
"There will be very little discussion about the group's operating performance. It will focus almost solely on the diesel engine scandal and claims for compensation," he predicted.
VW, which owns 12 brands ranging from Volkswagen and Porsche to Audi and SEAT, is facing regulatory fines, as well as a myriad of lawsuits from shareholders and car owners.
Shareholders accuse management in particular of dragging their feet in informing them about the scam, which led to a reeling 40-per cent drop in the company's share price last autumn.
The stock has since recovered somewhat, but is still 26 per cent below the levels before the scandal broke last September.
Shareholder meetings in Germany tend to be long and drawn out as mom-and-pop investors stand up to have their say, but this one could stretch late into the evening.
A number of shareholder lobby groups, such as DSW and SdK, are demanding special enquiries into who should be held responsible for the affair, arguing that an investigation being carried out by US consultants Jones Day is not sufficiently independent.