VW boss fulfils 30-year dream of Ducati deal

City A.M. Reporter
VOLKWAGEN’S Audi unit has agreed to buy thoroughbred Italian motorcycle maker Ducati for about €860m (£708.5m) including debt, two people familiar with the matter said yesterday.

The deal allows VW chairman Ferdinand Piech, who has long coveted Ducati and himself owns one of their superbikes, to make up for a missed opportunity nearly 30 years ago to buy the maker of the fire-engine red 1199 Panigale, which boasts “the most powerful twin-cylinder production engine on the planet”.

One source said Ducati’s debt was well below €200m in an acquisition analysts said lacked obvious benefits for premium carmaker Audi and did little but polish Piech’s reputation as a collector of rare and exotic brands.

“The Ducati purchase is driven by VW’s passion for nameplates rather than industrial or financial logic,” said Arndt Ellinghorst, an analyst at Credit Suisse.

Ducati, which has won 13 rider’s Superbike World Championships since 1988, will increase the VW group’s brand portfolio to 12 and extend Audi’s long-standing rivalry with BMW to superbikes. It was Piech who piloted VW’s expansion to an 11-brand entity covering fuel-efficient city cars to 40-tonne trucks.

Outgoing owner Investindustrial last listed Ducati’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) at €71m for 2010, on revenue just above €390m – a drop in the bucket for Germany’s most profitable manufacturer.