Audi may announce Ducati purchase next week-sources

FRANKFURT/MILAN, April 11 Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:44am EDT

FRANKFURT/MILAN, April 11 (Reuters) - Volkswagen's luxury-car division Audi plans to announce the acquisition of Ducati next week, ha ving completed a due diligence assessment of the Italian motorcycle maker, two people familiar with the matter said.

Audi encountered no major stumbling blocks when checking Ducati's books, the people said on Wednesday. The purchase could be announced as early as April 18, the day before VW's annual shareholders meeting in Hamburg.

One of the sources said that Ducati's main shareholder, buyout firm Investindustrial, agreed to talk with Audi exclusively.

Volkswagen, Audi and Investindustrial declined to comment.

A successful deal would extend Audi's long-standing rivalry with Bayerische Motoren Werke to superbikes, and add expertise about high-revving light engines to parent VW's engineering portfolio, which ranges from cars and heavy trucks to ship engines.

Italy's top daily Corriere della Sera also reported on Wednesday that an accord between Ducati and Audi is expected to be signed next week, citing no sources.

The paper noted that Audi has the right to negotiate exclusively until April 15, after which Investindustrial is free to talk to other potential buyers.

In 2005, Audi already tried to buy Ducati from former owner Texas Pacific Group but was trumped by rival bidder Investindustrial, Corriere della Sera added. (Additional reporting by Andreas Cremer in Berlin, Jennifer Clark in Milan)