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Does Volkswagen Become Takeover Target?

Perhaps the world’s largest car company is on sale. With a market cap down to $50 billion, it would at least be possible. All a buyer has to do, other than get shareholders that include the Porsche family, the Germany state of Lower Saxony and Qatar Holding to agree they have had enough of the Volkswagen emission standard debacle, which has spread to 11 million cars. Speculation is that the U.S. government might fine VW $18 billion.

The only car company in the world that could possibly make an offer is Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM), although the odds against a takeover, due to complexity and possible antitrust problems, would be substantial.

VW in general is in good condition. Although it has only 2% of the U.S. market, its share in Europe is 25%. In China, VW sells about one in five cars and light trucks each year.

To give some size of the scale of VW:

The Volkswagen Group delivered 6.55 (January-August 2014: 6.64; -1.5 percent) million vehicles to customers worldwide from January to August 2015. 714,400 (August 2014: 755,200; -5.4 percent) units were handed over to customers in the month of August. “August reflected the tough market environment. The situation in South America and Russia remains tense, as do conditions in China. The tailwind in North America and especially Europe continues”, Group Board Member for Sales Christian Klingler said in Wolfsburg on Friday, and added: “However, developments at the Group brands were mixed. The current market situation is proving a challenging one for the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand in particular as it holds high market shares in countries where the present situation is tough.”

The numbers may not have advanced, but there is no question about the company’s dominance in many markets.

VW’s revenue in the first half of the year was €108.8 billion (about $121.1 billion). Operating profit was €6.8 billion ($7.5 billion). The company’s profits could be more than wiped out by special charges due to the emission scandal, which would include fines and possible suits over the fraud itself.

Due to its iron-clad balance sheet and its market value, at $158 billion, Toyota would be the most likely buyer. Duplicate product development, engineering and manufacturing — Toyota could take billions of redundant costs out of VW. The Japanese company would have to take the risk though that VW will not be irreparably crippled by the emissions disaster.

ALSO READ: Why BMW Could Be the Winner in Volkswagen Diesel Scandal

By Douglas A. McIntyre