Malcolm Flynn | Apr 18, 2012

Audi looks set to purchase Italian motorcycle manufacturer Ducati, in a move that would bring the Volkswagen Group’s portfolio of brands to eleven.

According to Reuters, Audi and current Ducati owner Investindustrial SpA have agreed on a figure equating to just over AU$1 billion.

The report follows talk last month that Audi had taken new interest in the brand, with Inventindustrial granting the German carmaker exclusive rights for a purchase.

Interestingly, the rumoured sale price at that time was just one third of the figure reported this week.

This ‘first right’ agreement is said to expire during April, however neither company has commented on the reports.

Volkwagen boss Ferdinand Peich has long coveted such an acquisition, publicly expressing interest in 2008, before losing out to venture capitalist firm Investindustrial.

When compatriot MV Agusta was put up for sale by a GFC-consolidating Harley Davidson in 2009, Peich is quoted as telling Reuters he only had eyes for Ducati.

Ducati currently generates more revenue than VW Group brands Lamborghini and Bugatti combined, but US magazine Businessweek reports that the brand also carries a debt of approximately AU$250 million.

The purchase has prompted criticism from some industry analysts, who question the strategic significance to what is currently Germany’s most profitable automotive brand.

"The Ducati purchase is driven by Volkswagen's passion for nameplates rather than industrial or financial logic," Credit Suisse analyst Arndt Ellinghorst told Reuters.

Fellow motorcycle manufacturer, BMW, admits that the motorcycle industry has seen better days. "The market halved since 2008 and still shows no real sign of recovering," BMW spokesperson Rudy Probst told Reuters.

Ducati currently sells 40,000 motorcycles per year in 65 countries - a mere blip on industry leader Honda’s radar, which sold more than 16 million units in 2011.

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