Ducati draws interest from buyout, motorcycle firms

Bloomberg News

Iconic Italian motorcycle brand Ducati is attracting interest from private equity firms and motorcycle makers as owner Volkswagen AG considers a sale, people familiar with the matter said.

Buyout firms such as Permira and CVC Capital Partners and companies in the industry including Hero MotoCorp Ltd. are weighing bids, the people said, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are private. Eicher Motors Ltd., the maker of the Royal Enfield motorcycle, may also be interested, two of the people said.

A formal sale process may start in the next few weeks for Ducati, which could be valued at more than $1 billion, the people said. No final decisions have been made, and the companies may decide against an offer, they said. VW’s Audi premium-car division, which owns Ducati, started sounding out potential bidders earlier this year, people familiar with the matter said in April.

Representatives for Volkswagen’s Audi unit, Permira, CVC, Hero and Eicher declined to comment.

VW is working with advisers from Evercore Partners Inc. to advise on strategic options, though it might still decide to keep the marque, the people had said. Chief Executive Officer Matthias Mueller is attempting to streamline the industrial giant after the company admitted in 2015 to rigging some of its diesel vehicles to cheat emissions tests. It’s begun to restore profits and reign in costs.

Ducati, which dates from the 1920s, makes elite racing bikes like the $35,000 Panigale R, which boasts 205 horsepower and weighs 357 pounds. The company’s bikes are used in racing, including the MotoGP and Superbike events.

Audi agreed to buy Ducati from Italian buyout firm Investindustrial for about $962 million in 2012. Investindustrial took a controlling stake in the company from another private equity firm, TPG, in 2006.

Volkswagen rose 0.7 percent to close at 139.40 in Frankfurt trading on Friday. The shares have gained 4.5 percent this year.