Audi AG is in talks to buy Ducati Motor Holding SpA, the maker of luxury motorbikes ridden by celebrities such as Brad Pitt, from owner Investindustrial SpA, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Audi, which has the right of first refusal on a purchase until mid-April, is considering a total price of about euro 850 million ($1.12 billion) for the Italian company, which would include assuming some euro 800 million in liabilities, said one of the people, who declined to be identified discussing private negotiations.
Volkswagen AG (VW) Chairman Ferdinand Piech first publicly expressed interest in buying Ducati in April 2008, eventually losing out to current owner Investindustrial. Purchasing Ducati would add a motorcycle maker to VW’s nine brands, which include the Audi, Skoda and Lamborghini auto marques as well as heavy truckmakers Scania AB and MAN SE. Ducati would complement Audi’s luxury car lineup with products such as the $28,000-Superbike 1199 Panigale S Tricolore.
“You really have to push the envelope to see obvious benefits for a car company to own a motorcycle business,” said Erich Hauser, a London-based analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG. One could be forgiven for seeing this as “just another attempt by VW in empire building,” he said.
Investindustrial, a Milan-based private equity company, may hold an initial public offering of Ducati in Hong Kong this year or sell it to a rival, two people familiar with the plans said last month. Ducati was delisted from the Milan exchange in 2008.
Audi must still do due diligence on the potential deal, the people said. Christine Ritz, head of VW investor relations, said the car maker doesn’t comment on market speculation. A spokesman for Investindustrial declined to comment on the matter when contacted by Bloomberg.
Hero MotoCorp Ltd, India’s biggest motorcycle maker, had said on March 5 that Ducati is one of the assets it was examining as it looked for acquisitions to expand overseas. Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, which already makes motorcycles under the BMW brand, had said last month it was not interested in Ducati.
Volkswagen Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn said yesterday at the car maker’s annual meeting that he keeps his eyes open to what’s for sale on the market, when asked about whether VW was interested in buying Ducati.
UK automotive magazine CAR first reported the discussions between Audi and Ducati.