Audi gears up to buy motorbike maker Ducati for $1.1 billion

Written by Bloomberg | Rome | Updated: Apr 18 2012, 07:13am hrs
Volkswagens Audi is poised to purchase Italian motorcycle maker Ducati Motor Holding from owner Investindustrial for about 860 million euros ($1.1 billion), a person familiar with the matter said.

Audi has reached an agreement with Investindustrial to buy the Bologna, Italy-based maker of luxury motorbikes, with VWs supervisory board set to approve the deal tomorrow, said the person, who declined to be identified discussing the private negotiations. Audi and Investindustrial declined to comment.

At that price the deal, minus debt, would value Ducati at about seven times last years earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation. Ducatis total liabilities are less than 200 million euros, buyout firm Investindustrial said last month.

Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech, who turned 75 today, has long coveted the brand, publicly expressing interest in buying Ducati in April 2008 before eventually losing out to Investindustrial. The purchase will make Ducati the 11th brand in VWs portfolio.

Ducati is one of the finest machines you can buy but strategically its insignificant for Volkswagen, said Christoph Stuermer, a Frankfurt-based analyst with IHS Automotive. Its revenue is more than Lamborghinis and Bugattis combined, but to the automotive operations, its a mere accessory.

Ducati would complement Audis luxury-car lineup with products such as the $28,000 Superbike 1199 Panigale S Tricolore and expand the brands competition with Bayerische Motoren Werke, which makes BMW and Husqvarna motorcycles. Ducati, which last year sold about 42,000 motor bikes, had revenue for 2011 of 480 million euros.

For Volkswagen, the deal would mean an entry into the motorcycle business and gaining another asset in Italy after buying super-car brand Lamborghini and Italdesign Giugiaro SpA. Piech has also expressed interest in the past in Fiats Alfa Romeo brand.

Hero MotoCorp, Indias biggest motorcycle maker, had also expressed interest in Ducati after Milan-based Investindustrial made it known in February that it planned to sell the company. Daimler AG (DAI), which makes Mercedes-Benz cars, reiterated today that its not interested in acquiring Ducati.

Ducati, which was founded in 1926, sells the Superbike, Monster, Streetfighter, Hypermotard, Multistrada and the new Diavel models in 65 countries.