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For Sale: Ducati

Got an extra $1.34 billion dollars in your checking account? Already have your own 400-foot carbon fiber sailboat and put a down payment on your moon-base condo? Why not buy a certain Italian motorcycle manufacturer? According to the Financial Times, the 86-year-old company is for sale, just six years after its purchase by private equity group Investindustrial.

Investindustrial’s Chairman Andrea Bonomi told the Times “Ducati is now a perfect company but the further growth it requires needs the support of a world-class industrial partner…this year, we will work towards that partner.” In 2011, the group looked into taking the company public, but the story posits selling it to a rival manufacturer or automotive group would be the “more likely way to internationalize the brand further.” Is “internationalize” another way of saying “we can’t raise a billion Euros with an IPO?” Whatever it means, Bonomi told the Times he expects his family-owned group to realize three times its investment in the company.

So who has that kind of dough? Various sources report Volkswagen would like to enter the motorcycle market, Indian industrial giant Mahindra may prick up its ears, and of course BMW is always a suspect in this kind of thing, although BMW firmly stated it isn’t interested in buying other brands when the Italian financial newspaper Il Solo 24 Ore asked. We can also rule out Harley-Davidson. Bonomi said a “handful” of industrial groups in Asia, Europe and the U.S. were interested, but he wouldn’t name names.

Would it be a good investment? According to Ducati and Bonomi, of course. It has very low debt for this kind of company—just 1.7 times it earnings of 480 million Euros a year—has been experiencing sales growth in a global recession, and enjoys 9 percent of the world sportbike market (I couldn’t confirm those numbers, or get an explanation of what Ducati meant by sportbikes; I assume that means sportbikes over 600cc). I wouldn’t be surprised if a large Chinese or Indian company snapped it up, but we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds for the storied brand.

29 Comments

  1. Norm G. says:

    now we see more clearly the end game of adding rossi’s name to the payroll.

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  2. Tom says:

    Some guys in China should buy Ducati. They have the cash, they could use the technology and brand.

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  3. donniedarko says:

    Ducati has a factory in Thailand already. IMHO Italian pride will keep Ducuti in European hands most likely. They are a shining star in a Italian economy that’s f’d.

    I think Ducati is an exciting brand and for the first time ever Im actually considering buying one… says something.

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  4. Dave says:

    I’m surprised FIAT has not shown interest, what with them now being the parent of Chrysler (additional international presence) and already having the performance group Alfa in house.

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  5. adamus says:

    Then again Polaris would be another suspect IMO. I’d rather see that than a Chinese or Indian company getting their hands on it.

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  6. NFerr says:

    Owners looking to really cash in. Hundreds of millions in profit for them, triple what they paid. They took the initial risk, but I’m not sure they’re going to get anything close to asking price.

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  7. Philip says:

    IPO is the way to go for me, that’s the only way I could own a part of the company!
    I would buy some of that stock, would anyone else? Chinese ownership would be a
    disaster for me, mentally I could just not get my head around it, even if it could work out well for Ducati. If as Gary said Ferrari could buy Ducati, I would be cool with that scenario..

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  8. Pokey says:

    Polaris has been on a spending spree of late.
    Indian, Brammo… Ducati would fill out the other end of the spectrum.

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  9. Hot Dog says:

    I’ll take it! I’m a little short this week but I’ll scratch some ding up from my buddies, we’ll make payments,ok? A hamburger today for payment Tuesday?

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  10. Gary says:

    Dude … this is a motorcycle column. Surely there are better places for your crap.

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  11. Butchy says:

    A Chinese Italian motorcycle. WTF.

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    • Tommo says:

      Benelli have been Chinese-owned for a while now. Perhaps not ragingly successful, but persisting nonetheless. Money is money, wherever it comes from.
      Triumphs are built in Thailand, Volkswagons in Mexico, and Harleys break down all over the world. It’s a globalised economy, and first world factories don’t necessarily produce the highest quality products any more.

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  12. mickey says:

    “Would it be a good investment? According to Ducati and Bonomi, of course. It has very low debt for this kind of company—just 1.7 times it earnings of 480 million Euros a year”

    Sounds like Obama/Washington economics to me. Just spend nearly twice what you take in. Hey, maybe the American people can give them a bail out.

    • MotorCityDiesel says:

      So you would not make an investment that would get all your money back, plus some in just three years? After that you just rake in the Euros.
      Typical short-term next quarter thinking that got us into the financial mess.
      Everyone, including Mickey, spends more than they take in. When you buy a car or house, you have just spent a lot more than you can pay in one year.

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  13. Gary says:

    It would be a nice addition to the Aprilia family … if they’ve got the bucks. Ferrari, too … and they have the bucks.

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  14. Gutterslob says:

    As long as Apple don’t buy them…..
    Last thing we want are hipster patent trolls in the motorcycle industry.

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    • Mike says:

      You think Ducati wouldn’t sue someone who copied their trellis frame identically? Or their Desmo valves? Or built an identical Hypermotard clone? Ducati, much like Apple, uses design and innovation to distinguish them from their competition. If a company creates something that earns them a patent, and they don’t take steps to protect it, they deserve it when some half ass firm that doesn’t invest any of their earnings into research and development, puts them out of business simply by copying and cranking out clones.

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      • Gutterslob says:

        Car and bike manufacturers have hundred (or even thousands) of patents for many of the models in their fleet, but you hardly see lawsuits of that sort thrown about in the automotive sector.

        Companies like Apple or Motorola, on the other hand, would go patent something like “push-button electric start” or “two-wheel engined vehicle” and then proceed to troll every other manufacturer to either pay them “royalties”. That’s the kind of sleaze the tech sector brings with it.

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    • RBen says:

      Funny you.LOL.(hipster patent trolls) If Apple purchased Ducati the first thing thy would do is move the manufacturing to CHINA then have a media blitz claiming its the 2nd coming.

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    • Dave says:

      The last thing we need is a company that makes products so compelling that they go from bankruptcy to the most valuable company in the world? That’s the last thing we need in the motorcycle industry? It would be the equivalent of the motorcycle overtaking the car as the preferred method of transportation in the world.

      Apple has protected their IP while producing in china. That’s a miracle in itself.

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  15. mickey says:

    I heard Harley is looking for a way to expand their base in Europe. If Ducati was smart They’d sell out to Harley, wait a year and buy it back for $1 and get $38 million in capital investment from the Motor Company.

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  16. Reinhart says:

    A never ending saga…

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