FRANKFURT/MILAN (Reuters) -- Daimler is in advanced talks to take a minority stake in Italian motorcycle manufacturer MV Agusta, a source in Italy familiar with the situation said today.
The source said no deal had been finalized but it could involve Daimler buying a stake of 20 to 25 percent and helping the company expand outside Italy, where it makes one fifth of its sales, through an investment plan.
The source said MV Agusta was not looking for a financial investor but an industrial partner that can help it expand overseas. Daimler and MV Agusta declined to comment.
German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported earlier today that Daimler would buy a 25 percent stake of Agusta via its AMG performance cars unit for around 30 million euros ($39 million), with an option to raise its holding in exchange for further investments, citing financial sources in Milan. A deal could be signed as early as next week, it added.
Buying a stake in Agusta would give Daimler access to a range of high-performance three-cylinder engines which the Italian company has developed for its superbikes.
Interest in these lighter gasoline-fuelled engines has increased as tougher anti-pollution rules force automakers to use lightweight technology, including for compact engines used in hybrid vehicles.
Earlier this month Daimler said it would introduce 10 new hybrid vehicles by 2017.
Volkswagen Group's premium unit Audi bought rival motorbike maker Ducati from Italian private equity investor Investindustrial in 2012, when Daimler denied media reports that it was also interested in buying Ducati.
Family-owned Agusta said last year it was seeking funding for an ambitious expansion plan which included the possibility of listing on the stock market.
The Castiglioni family which owns Agusta hired Giorgio Girelli, a former chief executive of Banca Generali to help push expansion plans and a possible listing.
Recent stock-market volatility has however made listing on the stock exchange more difficult.
A legendary name in motorcycling, MV Agusta won no fewer than 75 world championship driver and constructor titles before largely disappearing in the 1970s.
Its rebirth in 1992 under motorcycle entrepreneur Claudio Castiglioni and renowned designer Massimo Tamburini created the F4 superbike, one of which belonged to King Juan Carlos of Spain and was loaned out to the Guggenheim Museum for an exhibit.
In the past 10 years, however, the brand has repeatedly come under financial duress and gone through several owners that included Harley-Davidson and Malaysian state-owned carmaker Proton. It was bought back in 2010 by Castiglioni shortly before he died, and is now run by his son.
Both MV Agusta and Ducati also compete with Italy's other major sportsbike maker Aprilia, a unit of Piaggio.