updated 5/19/2009 1:00:49 PM ET 2009-05-19T17:00:49

The board chairmen of German carmakers Volkswagen and Porsche appeared to change course Tuesday, announcing the two companies will work toward an integrated company.

Ferdinand Piech, chairman of Volkswagen AG, and Wolfgang Porsche of Porsche SE expressed their intention in a joint statement, saying the two automakers would push forward to achieve their goal “constructively and amicably.”

It was the latest twist since Sunday when Volkswagen, Europe’s biggest automaker by sales, halted talks on combining forces with Porsche, citing lack of clarity about finances.

The decision came several hours after Porsche confirmed it was looking for an outside investor, reportedly to help it pay off debt.

Stuttgart-based Porsche said the likelihood that an outside investor would step in was good, and that the majority shareholders of the Porsche family were in favor of such a move, but made no further comment.

Porsche, which racked up large debts while increasing its stake in Wolfsburg-based Volkswagen last year, announced earlier this month it wanted to form an integrated company with VW, in effect merging the sports carmaker with Europe’s largest auto company.

Porsche already holds about 51 percent of VW, but had wanted to increase its stake to 75 percent. In terms of shareholder ownership, the companies are therefore already combined, though a closer integration is expected to infringe more on Porsche independence as it seeks a financial lifeline.

Observers have speculated that Porsche will look to the Middle East for new capital, though it could be several weeks before any suitor emerges publicly.

Over the past several days, VW had indicated that it was not ready to jump into a partnership without a closer look at Porsche’s finances, something Porsche has seemed reluctant to permit.

In a letter to employees obtained by the Associated Press on Monday, VW Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn said the talks had been put on ice pending “clarification” from Porsche.

At the heart of the dispute is apparently some euro9 billion ($12.2 billion) in net debt that Porsche — at the time Germany’s most successful car maker — incurred in its attempt to take over the much larger VW last year.

Meanwhile on Monday, several thousand Porsche workers walked off their jobs to protest the proposed fusion of the two companies amid fears the storied brand could lose its elite status and workers would lose their jobs.

Porsche shares were up less than a quarter of a percent to close at euro41.30, while VW shares were down 2.2 percent to euro220.05 in Frankfurt on Tuesday.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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