Bajaj, Harley-Davidson and more reportedly lining up bids for Italian firm

Race to buy Ducati heats up

Written by Ben Purvis , Date 2:19 PM

Doubt that Ducati is up for sale is evaporating by the day with increasing reports that its patent firm, VW, has lined up potential buyers.

The latest news comes via Reuters, which says that now Harley-Davidson is preparing a bid. The report cites unnamed sources and claims that Harley has employed Goldman Sachs to work on the buy-out. On its part, VW – which owns Ducati via its own Audi arm – has employed Evercore Partners to sound out possible buyers.

VW snapped up Ducati in 2012 for around €860 million. Now the firm is looking for a hefty profit and hoping to get as much as €1.5 billion for the company. Even that hefty sum is a mere drop in the ocean of VW’s overall value. It’s even dwarfed by the fines that VW is expected to have to pay following the ‘dieselgate’ emissions scandal, where many of the firm’s cars were discovered to be running special software to cheat emissions tests.

It’s that scandal, which has also cost VW dearly in terms of recalling cars, or even scrapping them and refunding buyers, that has led to the company seeking buyers for Ducati.

While Harley-Davidson is instantly a favourite to buy the company, it’s by no means the only player on the field. Indian firm Bajaj has got the financial clout to do it and would dearly like to tap in to Ducati’s heritage and technological prowess. Other Indian firms including Hero, TVS and Royal Enfield have also been mentioned as potential buyers in the past. However, Reuters says that TVS and Hero have decided against the purchase, and Royal Enfield’s interest was never officially confirmed.

Other potential buyers are also out there, albeit not such recognisable names. These include investment funds. Reuters mentions KKR, Bain Capital and Permira. Ducati’s former investment fund owner, Investindustrial, has also been linked to the firm.

At this stage it’s hard to pick out which of the potential bidders is most likely to gain control of Ducati. It’s also a strong possibility that none of them will reach VW’s lofty price ambitions for the company, which would result in the firm remaining part of the VW group.

When VW bought Ducati in 2012, it was largely seen as a trophy purchase by former VW boss Ferdinand Piech. A long-time Ducati rider who had harboured hopes of owning a bike firm for several years, he was ousted from VW in 2015. With his departure, Ducati lost its most powerful supporter within the firm.

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