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Ducati for sale. Another blow to the made in Italy?

Ducati, the Italian motorcycle manufacturer known worldwide thanks also to MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi, is about to change hands. Investindustrial, the tricolor group of private equity firm headed by the Bonomi family, is going – after 6 years – to sell the brand in a transaction that could be worth up to EUR 1 billion, three times the initial investment.

"Ducati is now currently a perfect company, but the further growth it requires needs the support of a world-class industrial partner. This year we will work to find that partner”, Andrea Bonomi, Investindustrial’chairman told to Financial Times.

Last year Investindustrial, a leading private equity investors in Southern Europe – writes the FT – has mandated Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs to explore an IPO of Ducati in Hong Kong. Present also in the operation Imi Bank as joint global coordinator. But a sale to a competitor or a large automotive group is currently seen as the pattern most likely to further internationalize the brand.

Bonomi said that a handful of industry groups in Asia, Europe and the USA are interested in Ducati and, according to sources familiar with the matter, among the potential buyers include the Indian group Mahindra and motorcycle giants such as German Volkswagen, Mercedes and BMW, which also have builds momentum, even if provided it is not interested.

Ducati, which began 86 years ago as a manufacturer of radio, now holds a 10.5% global market of sports motorcycles, up from 8,5% in 2010. The sleek design and its image has impassioned many celebrities, from Prince William of England.

Ducati Motor Holding is preparing to close 2011 with about 42,000 bikes were sold and a turnover of close to 480 million, numbers that represent a 20% increase over the previous year.

The company has paid debts amounting to about 1.7% of earnings before interest, depreciation and amortization: a low level in comparison with most of the private equity portfolio companies.

BMW: We do not
BMW denies a possible interest in Ducati. "We are not interested in buying any business," says a spokesman for the Bloomberg German carmaker.