| FRANKFURT/MILAN, April 11
FRANKFURT/MILAN, April 11 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
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)