German court has doubts over Porsche SE investor claims

Wed May 14, 2014 1:29pm EDT

* Court discusses suits seeking 213 mln euros in damages

* Judge has "difficulties" with suitors' arguments

* Porsche faces more suits at Braunschweig court on May 21

BRAUNSCHWEIG, Germany, May 14 (Reuters) - A German court expressed doubts on Wednesday about claims in multi-million euro lawsuits against Porsche SE, in comments that could undermine the efforts of others pushing for damages against the company.

Investors seeking damages of more than 213 million euros ($292.03 million) have accused Porsche SE of camouflaging a plan to acquire much-bigger Volkswagen AG and secretly piling up a holding in Europe's biggest automaker in 2008.

The bulk of that - 212 million euros - is sought by descendants of former German billionaire Adolf Merckle who committed suicide in 2009 after his empire was rocked by wrong-way bets on VW shares.

"We're having certain difficulties" in following the suitors' arguments, Judge Stefan Puhle said after discussions on two cases at the regional court in Braunschweig, Germany.

Two months ago, a court in Stuttgart dismissed a lawsuit by hedge funds seeking 1.36 billion euros in damages from Porsche SE on similar grounds, with the judge saying it could not be proven that Porsche SE deliberately caused harm to hedge funds' positions.

Two more suits seeking over 2 billion euros of damages from Porsche SE are scheduled for hearings at the Braunschweig court on May 21, with a ruling on three cases planned for July 30.

In March 2008 Porsche SE dismissed talk that it intended to take over VW, but seven months later it announced it controlled 74.1 percent of VW's common stock, just short of the 75 percent takeover threshold.

The announcement by Porsche SE, a family-controlled holding company that owns a majority stake in VW, caused VW shares to surge to record highs as short-sellers scrambled to cover their positions.

Judge Puhle on Wednesday called Porsche's tactics "sly."

"This is called cleverness in German," he said.

($1 = 0.7294 Euros) (Reporting by Jan Schwartz; Writing by Andreas Cremer; editing by Susan Thomas)

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