Wolf says Russian move will not hit Austrian Magna plant

Outgoing Magna co-chief Siegfried Wolf has rubbished claims that his departure will have a negative effect on the car parts maker’s factory in Austria.Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska said earlier this month Wolf was set to head the automotive division of his company Russian Machines.The announcement came just weeks after Frank Stronach accepted a multi-million payout for losing his voting rights at Magna, the firm he founded in the 1950s. He reportedly received 800 million Euros in shares and cash after accepting his voting rights among company shareholders were slashed from 66 per cent to only 7.4 per cent. Stronach, 77, hired fellow Styrian Wolf to work for his company 15 years ago.The developments have fuelled speculations that the Austrian-Canadian company will reduce its productivity at the Magna-Steyr plant near the Styrian city of Graz. The facility was set up by Stronach after he took over struggling Austrian car maker Steyr Daimler Puch in 1998.More than 40,000 vehicles were built for BMW, Peugeot and other firms at the site in the first six months of 2010. It is an essential part of the province’s “car cluster” which features around 180 companies with 44,000 employees.Now Wolf has vehemently denied Magna will pull out of being active in Austria following the retreat of its Austrian founder and himself.He told Austrian daily Die Presse today (Tues): “Our departures will have no effects at all. (New sole firm chief) Don Walker made that clear recently. Europe is responsible for half of Magna’s global business and its growth strategy considering the East. This means the location (near Graz) will rather be strengthened than weakened.”Wolf, who will be in charge of Basic Element’s strategic business developments, added he expected “good cooperation agreements” between Russian firms and western companies will be made soon considering that firms in the western world are ahead as far as technology is regarded.Speaking about Magna in particular, he told Die Presse: “Russia’s car industry still needs modernisation measures. I see a lot of potential for Magna here.”Wolf added: “Russia is in a build-up stage. I have always liked to build up and create things. I’m looking forward to helping and getting involved.”Wolf is regarded as one of Austria’s most influential businessmen. With an annual income of 3.8 million Euros, he was the county’s best-paid manager for the past few years.He made clear today: “Money wasn’t my only motivation to go to Russia.”Speaking to Vienna daily Kurier, Wolf revealed he will also receive a stake and voting rights when he enters Basic Element’s board in November.He refused to give figures, but labelled himself as the “certainly second-most important man” at the Moscow-headquartered company which has around 250,000 employees.Asked by Die Presse whether he feared the reportedly strong influence political parties and leaders in Russia have on economic processes and decision-making within firms, Wolf said: “Considering how quickly the Russian economy recovered after the crisis, you have to admit it’s a good thing this cooperation works out the way it currently does.”Wolf also said he planned to spend most of his time in Austria – but declined to be drawn when asked how long he would be active for Deripaska’s company. “As long as I enjoy it,” the 52-year-old said.Wolf came under fire recently when a new book claimed he received almost 50,000 Euros in subsidies for his private agricultural business.Journalist Hans Weiss reveals in his new work “Schwarzbuch Landwirtschaft” (Black Book of Agriculture) that so-called small business farmers receive just 20 per cent of 2.2 billion Euros paid by the Austrian government and the European Union (EU).The author said six of the 10 richest Austrians receive subsidies for agricultural activities. He explained: “Large-scale firms and agricultural companies become bigger and bigger, while the small ones shut down.”Wolf defended himself for raking in 45,000 Euros in annual subsidies. He said: “I receive 23,000 Euros of direct aid and the rest for avoiding toxins which pollute water, air and soil. The subsidies are financial compensation for the resulting small revenue.”