Volkswagen‘s acquisition of the remaining 51% of Porsche SE’s sports car business for EUR3.9bn (US$5.3bn) now appears likely as early as next year, now that merger plans have been put on hold, a Frankfurt show report said.

Last week, Volkswagen said it would delay a merger with Porsche Automobil Holding SE which would have given it full control over the sports car unit, beyond 2011 because of legal issues, Reuters noted.

“The planned merger with Porsche SE cannot be implemented within the time frame provided for in the comprehensive agreement. Nevertheless, all parties remain committed to the goal of creating an integrated automotive group with Porsche and are convinced that this will take place,” VW said at the time.

VW has said in the past that a merger could still be renegotiated this year should there be a delay, and last week suggested it would also consider alternative options to integrate Porsche.

But now all signs point to a straightforward takeover, which would involve the use of put-call options previously agreed between Porsche SE and Volkswagen, Reuters said.

“I now expect that the put-call options will be used,” Porsche brand chief Matthias Mueller said at the Frankfurt show, adding that the earliest opportunity to exercise the options would be next year.

The two carmakers have said they could achieve additional annual savings on top of the targeted EUR700m once they were fully integrated, at which point Porsche would no longer have to operate at arm’s length as it does now.

Mueller said EUR600m of savings had already been realised and he expected at least another EUR100m over the course of 2012, suggesting a deal may be feasible next year.

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn told Reuters a merger later couldn’t be ruled out but signalled the preferred deal would likely involve exercising the options.

“We always said the merger this year was a Plan A and the put-call options were Plan B,” he told the news agency.