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Volkswagen Buys Stake In Europe 's Third-Largest Truckmaker

Company will use stake to help support cooperation between MAN and Scania, of which VW already owns 18.7 percent.

BERLIN (AP) - Volkswagen AG, Europe's biggest automaker, said Wednesday it has taken a 15 percent stake in truckmaker MAN AG and will use it to support cooperation between MAN and Swedish truckmaker Scania AB.

Earlier this month, Munich-based MAN made a $12.2 billion hostile bid for Scania, in which Volkswagen already owns an 18.7 percent equity stake. Scania's management and Volkswagen have rejected the bid.

Instead, Volkswagen, which has its own Brazilian-based truck business as well as the Scania stake, now says it is seeking to protect its position in the industry by pursuing what it described as the ''industrial logic'' of Scania and MAN gaining efficiency advantages by working together.

''The investment should allow Volkswagen to secure its strategic interest in the truck sector and should make possible a friendly and jointly developed solution, which achieves maximum synergies,'' Volkswagen said in a statement.

Scania is Europe's No. 4 maker of commercial vehicles, behind MAN, which is No. 3.

''In light of indications in the market of a hostile takeover attempt of MAN by third parties, this investment in MAN is essential to secure Volkswagen's interest,'' the statement said.

Wolfsburg-based Volkswagen, which also has its own truck business, said it wasn't interested in a full takeover of MAN.

Volkswagen CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder said last week at the Paris auto show that he preferred a ''friendly alliance'' between the two companies, instead of a takeover, arguing that VW's stake in Scania, which gives it 34 percent of the voting rights, was ''strategic'' to its own operations and interests.

Scania and its major shareholders, including VW and Investor AB, rejected MAN's offer, saying it did not reflect the company's true worth.

Analysts have said repeatedly that MAN would not be able to mount any takeover without Volkswagen's support.