Who Owns Volkswagen: The Largest Shareholders Overview

Article Teaser: Who Owns Volkswagen: The Largest Shareholders Overview

Volkswagen AG (VOW) is a german car manufacturer selling cars under multiple brands worldwide. It makes money predominantly from selling Volkswagen, Audi, and Porshe cars and lending people money to buy them. Let’s now look at who owns Volkswagen and who controls it.

The largest shareholder of Volkswagen AG (Volkswagen Group) is Porsche SE, with a 31% ownership share, followed by the German State of Lower Saxony (12%), and Qatar Investment Authority (10%). However, thanks to the existence of preferred shares with no votes, Porsche SE holds 53% of all votes.

 Volkswagen's Largest Shareholders (Dec 2021)
Shareholder Ownership Voting Power
Porsche SE 31.4% 53.3%
Lower Saxony 11.8% 20.0%
Qatar Investment Authority 10.5% 17.0%
Other 46.4% 9.7%
Listed are shareholders holding >5% of any share class or notable in other ways
   Source: Annual Report

Volkswagen largest shareholders by share ownership and vote control (donut chart) Volkswagen largest shareholders by share ownership and vote control (donut chart)

The largest shareholder of Volkswagen is Porsche Automobil Holding SE, also referred to as Porshe SE, with a 31% share. Because Volkswagen has also issued preferred shares without voting rights owned by other investors, Porshe SE owns the majority of voting power in Volkswagen AG.

  • To clear out common confusion, let me point out that Volkswagen shareholder Porsche AG (full name: Porshe Automobil Holding SE) is not the same company as car manufacturer Porshe AG (full name: Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG) that is a subsidiary of Volkswagen. See more on this in later parts of this article.

The second largest shareholder based on ownership is the German state of Lower Saxony, where Volkswagen has its headquarters and large manufacturing plant.

  • Apart from their ownership stake and voting power, german law gives the State of Lower Saxony blocking rights over certain decisions. Volkswagen was originally wholly owned by the German government, and part of government shares was first floated on the Frankfurt stock market in 1962 and has been traded in the United States via depositary receipts since 1988.

Another sizable shareholder is Qatar Investment Authority (through a subsidiary Qatar Holding LLC). QIA is Qatar’s sovereign fund, investing in assets worldwide.

In this article, I will dive more into who Volkswagen’s largest shareholders are, how many shares and votes they have, and how much their stake is worth. I will also explore some other topics related to its ownership structure.

If you are interested, you can also explore who owns other companies like Tesla, Netflix, Alphabet(Google), or Zoom.

🕹️ Who Owns Volkswagen (VOW) and Who Has Control?

Volkswagen largest shareholders share ownership vs vote control chart

Volkswagen shareholders’ ownership shares do not equal voting power. The reason behind that lies in the two types of stocks that the company issued.

Volkswagen AG has two classes of outstanding shares:

  • Ordinary shares: Give shareholders one vote per share and standard economic rights (traded under VOW ticker)
  • Preferred shares: Give their holders the same economic rights as regular shares and a slightly higher dividend. However, they have no voting rights. (traded under VOW3 ticker) If the shareholders own regular shares, their voting power is higher than their overall ownership share because preferred shares have no voting rights.

Just based on voting power, it would seem that Porshe SE is in control of Volkswagen with 53% of voting rights. However, in the case of Volkswagen, things are more complex thanks to large government involvement.

The first thing that makes the control of Porshe SE difficult for its major shareholder is that Volkswagen’s articles of association require that only half of the 20-member supervisory board are shareholders’ representatives. The rest are employee representatives elected by employees.

  • More precisely, it is seven (7) employees and three (3) union representatives.

Another thing is that the state of Lower Saxony is entitled to appoint two Supervisory board members as long as they hold at least 15% of the company’s ordinary shares.

Last but not least, control of Porshe SE is limited by 20% voting power of the state of Lower Saxony, which gives it the power to block any major decision concerning merger and acquisition or changes in articles of association.

  • Lower Saxony blocking power is a result of “Volkswagen Law” that requires Volkswagen to require a majority of 80% for any fundamental decision that would normally, under german law, need two-thirds of votes (66.66%).
  • Such fundamental decisions are, for example, amendments to the articles of an association that change capital structure, dissolution of the company, and approval of transactions such as mergers and transformations.
  • Historically, this law required that none of the shareholders can exercise voting power higher than 20%. Germany redrafted this part of the law in 2008 because it did not comply with EU anti-protectionist rules.

🗳️ Breakdown of Volkswagen’s Outstanding Shares and Votes by Top Shareholders

Volkswagen AG had a total of 501 million outstanding shares as of December 2021. The following table shows how many shares each Volkswagen’s large shareholder holds.

 Volkswagen's Outstanding Shares by Shareholder
In millions of shares as of December 2021
Shareholder Class A Class C Total % Share
Porsche SE 157 - 157 31.4%
Lower Saxony 59 - 59 11.8%
Qatar Investment Authority 50 2 53 10.5%
Other 29 204 232 46.4%
Total (# millions) 295 206 501 100.0%
Listed are shareholders holding >5% of any share class or notable in other ways
   Source: Annual Report

There were 295 million votes distributed among shareholders of Volkswagen AG. The table below shows the total number of votes for each large shareholder.

 Volkswagen's Vote Control by Shareholder
In millions of votes as of December 2021
Shareholder Class A Total % Share
Porsche SE 157 157 53.3%
Lower Saxony 59 59 20.0%
Qatar Investment Authority 50 50 17.0%
Other 29 29 9.7%
Total (# millions) 295 295 100.0%
Listed are shareholders holding >5% of any share class or notable in other ways
   Source: Annual Report

Because some shareholders own preferred shares with no voting rights, shareholders who own ordinary shares have outsized voting power.

💵 Breakdown of Volkswagen’s Market Value by Shareholder

The following table summarizes how much is each shareholder’s stake in Volkswagen AG worth.

However, keep in mind that a stake in Volkswagen could be just one part of their portfolio, and their total worth could be bigger, thanks to other investments. It could also be lower if they have debts.

 Volkswagen's Market Value by Shareholder
Market value in billions $ as of December 2021
Shareholder Class A Class C Total % Share
Porsche SE $46 - $46 36.0%
Lower Saxony $17 - $17 13.5%
Qatar Investment Authority $15 $0 $15 11.9%
Other $8 $41 $49 38.6%
Total ($ billions) $86 $41 $128 100.0%
Listed are shareholders holding >5% of any share class or notable in other ways
   Source: Annual Report

Let’s now look at each Volkswagen shareholder individually.

📒 Who Are the Largest Shareholders of Volkswagen AG

Let’s now go through the list of the largest shareholders of Volkswagen AG one by one and look at who they are, how many shares they own, what is their voting power, and how much is their stake in Volkswagen worth.

#1 Porsche SE

Porsche SE holds 31% of Volkswagen’s shares, making it its largest shareholder. However, thanks to non-voting shares that other shareholders own, its share of total votes is 53%.

Volkswagen largest shareholders share ownership vs vote control chart

Porsche SE owns 157 million Volkswagen shares, representing 157 million shareholder votes. The market value of Porsche SE’s stake in Volkswagen was $46 billion as of December 2021.

Porsche Automobil Holding SE (Porsche SE) is the holding company set up in 2007 and controlled by Porsche-Piëch family. The company is the majority owner of the Volkswagen Group.

Porsche SE is not the direct owner of the car company Porsche AG, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Volkswagen.

Besides the majority stake in Volkswagen AG, Porshe SE owns Porsche Engineering and Porsche Design Group.

#2 Lower Saxony

Lower Saxony holds 12% of Volkswagen’s shares which makes it its second-largest shareholder. However, thanks to non-voting shares that other shareholders own, its share of total votes is 20%.

Volkswagen largest shareholders share ownership vs vote control chart

Lower Saxony owns 59 million Volkswagen shares, representing 59 million shareholder votes. The market value of Lower Saxony’s stake in Volkswagen was $17 billion as of December 2021.

Lower Saxony is one of 16 states within the Federal Republic of Germany. It is located in northwest Germany.

#3 Qatar Investment Authority

Qatar Investment Authority holds 10% of Volkswagen’s shares which makes it its third-largest shareholder. However, thanks to non-voting shares that other shareholders own, its share of total votes is 17%.

Volkswagen largest shareholders share ownership vs vote control chart

Qatar Investment Authority owns 53 million Volkswagen shares, representing 50 million shareholder votes. The market value of Qatar Investment Authority’s stake in Volkswagen was $15 billion as of December 2021.

Qatar Investment Authority was founded by the State of Qatar in 2005 and serves as Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund. It had roughly $445 billion of assets under management in 2022.

QIA invests in businesses and real estate around the world. The most famous abroad investments are stakes in Volkswagen AG, Heathrow Airport, or Barclays, a British bank.

QIA also owns 50% of Qatar National Bank, which is, despite its name, a commercial bank.

❔ Does Porsche Own Volkswagen, or Does Volkswagen Own Porsche?

It is sometimes confusing when people talk about Porsche and Volkswagen to realize who owns who. Does Porsche own Volkswagen, or does Volkswagen own Porsche?

Volkswagen both owns Porshe and is owned by Porshe. However, it is a different Porsche company in each case. Volkswagen’s majority shareholder Porshe Automobil Holding SE is not the same company as a car manufacturer and Volkswagen subsidiary Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG.

Porshe Automobil Holding SE (Porshe SE) is a holding company controlled by Porsche-Piëch family. Porshe SE is the majority shareholder of Volkswagen AG and does not make or sell any Porsche cars.

Volkswagen AG owns many subsidiaries, and one fully owned subsidiary is “Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG” (Porsche AG) which makes famous Porsche cars.

❔ When Was Volkswagen Founded and By Who?

Volkswagen was founded in 1937 by the Nazi German government to produce a car based on the designs of Ferdinand Porsche. The car became later famous as “Beetle.” However, not many passenger cars were produced in its factory until the second world war ended.

During the war, the Volkswagen factory was mainly manufacturing army vehicles using slave labor.

After WWII, British Army took control of the factory, and later, in 1949, the British handed it over to the German federal government.

In 1961 German federal government floated part of its stake on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, but special law ensured that any future private shareholders could not overpower the government.

Volkswagen stocks have been traded in the United States via depositary receipts since 1988.

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