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 look at who owns Volkswagen and who controls it.

Volkswagen’s largest shareholders are Porsche SE, which owns a 31.9% share, followed by the German State of Lower Saxony (11.8%), and Qatar Investment Authority (10.5%). However, thanks to the existence of preferred shares with no votes, Porsche SE controls 53.3% of Volkswagen.

 Volkswagen's Largest Shareholders (Dec 2022)
Shareholder Ownership Voting Power
Porsche SE 31.9% 53.3%
Lower Saxony 11.8% 20.0%
Qatar Investment Authority 10.5% 17.0%
Other 45.8% 9.7%
Listed are shareholders holding >5% of any share class or notable in other ways
   Source: Annual Report

Who ows Volkswagen vs who controls it chart

In this article, I will dive more into who owns Volkswagen and who controls it. I will show you who Volkswagen’s largest shareholders are, how many shares and votes they have, and how much their stake is worth.

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

📃 Who Owns Volkswagen?

Who owns Volkswagen, largest shareholders donut chart

Volkswagen is owned by its shareholders. The largest ones are holding company Porsche SE controlled by the Porsche-Piëch family, which owns 31.9% of the company, followed by Lower Saxony with 11.8% ownership share, and Qatar Investment Authority with 10.5% ownership share.

The largest owner of Volkswagen is the holding company Porsche Automobil Holding SE, also referred to as Porshe SE, controlled by the Porsche-Piëch family, which owns 31.9% of the company.

  • 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.
  • Porshe SE owns the majority of voting power in Volkswagen AG, because Volkswagen has issued preferred shares without voting rights owned by other investors.

The second largest Volkswagen owner is the German State of Lower Saxony, where Volkswagen has its headquarters and large manufacturing plant, which owns an 11.8% stake.

  • 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.
  • The state of Lower Saxony owns Volkswagen mainly through its 100% owned company Hannoversche Beteiligungsgesellschaft Niedersachsen mbH (HanBG).

A sizable owner is also Qatar Investment Authority (through a subsidiary Qatar Holding LLC), which owns 10.5% of the company. QIA is Qatar’s sovereign fund, investing in assets worldwide.

Volkswagen was founded in 1937 by the Nazi German government and has been a publicly listed company since the German government floated part of its stake on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in 1961 (Ticker: VOW).

Volkswagen AG is incorporated in the State of Lower Saxony (Germany), where the company also has its headquarters in Wolfsburg.

🎮 Who Controls Volkswagen (VOW)?

Who controls Volkswagen, largest shareholders donut chart

Volkswagen’s shareholders with the largest voting power are are Porsche SE, controlled by the Porsche-Piëch family, which holds 53.3% of all votes, followed by the German State of Lower Saxony with 20.0% voting power and Qatar Investment Authority with 17.0% of votes.

As you can see, the size of voting power is not equal to ownership. The reason why certain shareholders have outsized voting power compared to their ownership stake is that Volkswagen AG has two classes of outstanding shares, with different rights.

  • 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.

Volkswagen’s shareholder with the largest voting power is Porsche SE which holds 53.3% of all votes, despite owning “only” 31.9% of Volkswagen. This is possible thanks to non-voting preferred shares that other shareholders own.

Just based on voting power, it would seem that Porshe SE is in control of Volkswagen. However, in the case of Volkswagen, things are more complex thanks to 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 the 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.

Volkswagen’s insiders that have influence over the Company are the CEO and chairman of the Board of Management, Oliver Blume, chairman of the supervisory board Hans Dieter Pötsch, and other board members and executives. However, the company is controlled by the Porsche-Piëch family. They are the ones pulling the strings, with the veto power on the important decision by the Lower Saxony government.

  • Volkswagen’s Board of Management has nine (9) members.
  • Volkswagen’s Supervisory Board has twenty (20) members, half of them elected by employees.

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

Volkswagen AG had a total of 501 million outstanding shares as of December 2022. 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 2022
Shareholder Class A Class C Total % Share
Porsche SE 157 3 160 31.9%
Lower Saxony 59 - 59 11.8%
Qatar Investment Authority 50 2 53 10.5%
Other 29 201 230 45.8%
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 2022
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 2022
Shareholder Class A Class C Total % Share
Porsche SE $24.8 $0.3 $25.1 34.8%
Lower Saxony $9.3 - $9.3 12.9%
Qatar Investment Authority $7.9 $0.3 $8.2 11.4%
Other $4.5 $25.0 $29.5 40.9%
Total ($ billions) $46.4 $25.6 $72.0 100.0%
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 Volkswagen’s Largest Shareholders?

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 (31.9%)

Porsche SE's share ownership and voting power in Volkswagen (chart)

Porsche SE is the largest shareholder of Volkswagen, owning 31.9% of its shares. However, thanks to non-voting shares that other shareholders own, it controls 53.3% of all votes. As of December 2022, the market value of Porsche SE’s stake in Volkswagen was $25.1 billion.

Porsche SE owned 160 million shares in Volkswagen and controlled 157 million shareholder votes as of December 2022.

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 (11.8%)

Lower Saxony's share ownership and voting power in Volkswagen (chart)

Lower Saxony is the second-largest shareholder of Volkswagen, owning 11.8% of its shares. However, thanks to non-voting shares that other shareholders own, it controls 53.3% of all votes. As of December 2022, the market value of Lower Saxony’s stake in Volkswagen was $9.3 billion.

Lower Saxony owned 59 million shares in Volkswagen and controlled 59 million shareholder votes as of December 2022.

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

#3 Qatar Investment Authority (10.5%)

Qatar Investment Authority's share ownership and voting power in Volkswagen (chart)

Qatar Investment Authority is the third-largest shareholder of Volkswagen, owning 10.5% of its shares. However, thanks to non-voting shares that other shareholders own, it controls 53.3% of all votes. As of December 2022, the market value of Qatar Investment Authority’s stake in Volkswagen was $8.2 billion.

Qatar Investment Authority owned 53 million shares in Volkswagen and controlled 50 million shareholder votes as of December 2022.

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.

🧱 Who and When Founded Volkswagen?

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.

📅 Volkswagen’s History Timeline

These are selected events from Volkswagen’s history:

  • 1937: Volkswagen was founded by the Nazi German government.
  • 1961: Part of government shares was floated on the Frankfurt stock exchange.

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