A leading German financial newspaper yesterday reported that Porsche may be trying to split Audi off from the rest of the Volkswagen Group so that it can acquire it by buying shares on the open market.

Handelsblatt reported that the first step in this process is the merger of the Audi, Benltey, Lamborghini and Bugatti brands into a premium brand grouping. New Volkswagen Group CEO, Martin Winterkorn, has already said this is what he plans to do when he takes the reins from January.

VW would distribute its Audi shares to individual shareholders who would then become shareholders in each of the two companies to the same degrees. Porsche would then automatically be the largest shareholder in Audi. Porsche could than make a takeover offer to shareholders.

Porsche has denied that it is planning to break Audi off and acquire it. A spokesperson told dpa news agency that Porsche plans to remain independent and has no plans to acquire Audi.