VW Group board approves Audi's purchase of Ducati
BERLIN (Bloomberg) -- Audi's purchase of Italian motorcycle maker Ducati Motor Holding was approved by the Volkswagen Group and Audi boards on Wednesday.
Audi aims to complete the transaction as quickly as possible, it said in a statement. The VW luxury-car unit did not give a price for the purchase.
Audi will pay Ducati owner, Investindustrial, 860 million euros ($1.1 billion), including debt, for the Bologna, Italy-based motorbike builder, a person familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.
"Ducati is known worldwide as a premium brand among motorcycle manufacturers and has a long tradition of building sport motorcycles," Audi CEO Rupert Stadler said in the statement. "It has great expertise in high- performance engines and lightweight construction."
VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech has long coveted the brand. He publicly expressed interest in buying Ducati in April 2008 before eventually losing out to Investindustrial.
The purchase will make Ducati the 11th brand in VW's portfolio, alongside super-car marques Lamborghini and Bugatti and heavy-duty truck manufacturers Scania and MAN.
"Ducati is a strong brand in a very specialized segment -- a bit like Lamborghini," said Juergen Pieper, an analyst with Bankhaus Metzler in Frankfurt. "It'll give Audi a bit of a marketing boost and it's very profitable, but you still have to ask whether there's not better use for $1 billion."
The deal will also aid Audi in its competition with BMW, which makes BMW and Husqvarna motorcycles, as they vie for the lead in luxury vehicles.
Ducati, which last year sold about 42,000 motorcycles such as the $28,000 Superbike 1199 Panigale S Tricolore, posted a 39 percent increase in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization to 93 million euros in 2011, a person familiar with the financial figures said March 13. Revenue rose 20 percent to 480 million euros, giving it a profit margin of about 19 percent.
Audi's operating profit was the equivalent of 12.1 percent of sales in 2011.
Volkswagen last year sold 8.36 million vehicles, generating 159 billion euros in revenue. VW, which also plans to integrate the Porsche car brand, had net liquidity of 17 billion euros at the end of 2011, according to its annual report.
The Ducati deal marks an entry into the motorcycle business for VW and another asset in Italy after buying Lamborghini and Italdesign Giugiaro. Piech has also expressed interest in the past in Fiat's Alfa Romeo brand.
Hero MotoCorp Ltd., India's 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.
Ducati, which was founded in 1926, sells the Superbike, Monster, Streetfighter, Hypermotard, Multistrada and the new Diavel models in 65 countries.