Audi to announce purchase of Ducati

UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Volkswagen's Audi division said it agreed to buy Italian motorcycle maker Ducati, adding a 12th brand to the German auto maker's portfolio of passenger cars, trucks and ultra-luxury vehicles. The 20-member supervisory board of Europe's largest car maker approved the purchase on Wednesday, Audi said in a statement. It did not disclose details of the deal, though sources told Reuters on April 17 that Audi agreed to buy Ducati for about 860 million euros ($1.13 billion).

Ducati, which has won 13 rider's Superbike World Championships since 1988, will extend Audi's long-standing rivalry with Bayerische Motoren Werke to superbikes.

Audi outsold Daimler's Mercedes-Benz last year and has vowed to surpass BMW for the top spot in luxury car sales this decade.

The company said it aimed to complete the purchase of Ducati as quickly as possible once it has received approval by the relevant regulators.

Analysts have questioned the Ducati purchase, saying the move bears no economic or industrial logic and solely reflects VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech's passion for the Italian company's expertise on design and light engines.

Ducati also brings in liabilities of well below 200 million euros, one official told Reuters.

"I can't think of a concrete reason for Audi to warrant a business case for buying Ducati," said Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive at the University of Applied Sciences in Bergisch-Gladbach.

"Ducati doesn't enhance Audi's business model in any way, it's just a trophy in the wall cabinet," he added.

04/11/12 Audi plans to announce the acquisition of Ducati next week, having completed a due diligence assessment of the Italian motorcycle maker, two people familiar with the matter said.

Audi encountered no major stumbling blocks when checking Ducati's books, the people said today. The purchase could be announced as early as April 18, the day before VW's annual shareholders' meeting in Hamburg.

One of the sources said that Ducati's main shareholder, Italian buyout firm Investindustrial, agreed to talk with Audi exclusively.

Volkswagen, Audi and Investindustrial declined to comment.

A successful deal would fuel Audi's long-standing rivalry with BMW in superbikes, and add expertise in high-revving light engines to VW's engineering portfolio, which ranges from cars and heavy trucks to ship engines.

Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera also reported today that an accord between Ducati and Audi was expected to be signed next week, citing no sources.

The paper noted that Audi had the right to negotiate exclusively until April 15, after which Investindustrial was free to talk to other potential buyers.

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