Pininfarina family losing control in debt deal-sources

MILAN Tue Feb 14, 2012 12:04pm EST

MILAN Feb 14 (Reuters) - Italy's Pininfarina family is set to lose control of the eponymous car design company as lengthy debt restructuring talks head toward the finish line, people familiar with the situation said on Tuesday.

Pininfarina, designer of dream cars like the Ferrari FF, posted a 16.9 million euros loss in the first nine months of 2011 after closing its manufacturing operations to re-invent itself as a smaller niche design player.

An agreement with creditor banks including Intesa Sanpaolo , UniCredit, Mediobanca and Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena to restructure net debt of 76 million euros is on track and will be reached in the coming months, said three sources close to the situation.

"The debt situation is stable and the talks are not contentious, so there is no hurry," said one of the sources, speaking on condition anonymity. "The agreement will fix the capital structure for the foreseeable future."

When finalised, the debt accord will give control of the family's 77 percent stake to its creditor banks, ending the Pininfarina family's ownership of the influential design house founded by onetime Turin carriage maker Gianbattista "Pinin" Farina in 1930.

The company rose to prominence in the 1930s through a knack for making the latest aerodynamic design trends attractive to a broader public.

After World War Two, it designed the ground-breaking Cisalfa coupe, which now sits in New York's Museum of Modern Art. Pininfarina has designed almost every Ferrari sportscar since the 1950s.

Pininfarina shareholders will hold a mandatory special meeting on Wednesday to hear management's plans on how to return to profit, said one of the sources, adding that the plans do not include a capital increase.

Pininfarina declined to comment on Tuesday.

The deal will close a chapter that began in 2008 when the banks swapped 180 million euros in debt in exchange for a promise of proceeds from a future sale of part of the Pininfarina's family stake.

But no takers materialised. Potential buyers were not willing to acquire a design company when they can easily contract its services, said one of the people familiar with the situation.

French industrialist Vincent Bollore, a former joint venture partner with Pininfarina, was interested last year in acquiring a stake, but no deal ever resulted.

Other companies including Magna International and Chinese car maker Chery had been reported to be interested.

Despite having its name on some of the most glamorous cars in the world, the Pininfarina family generally keeps a low profile.

Andrea Pininfarina, the founder's grandson, died in a scooter accident in 2008, aged 51, while on his way to the company's factory in Cambiano, outside Turin.

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