MILAN Industrial and financial investors are in talks to buy a stake in Camfin CAMI.MI, a holding company that controls tiremaker Pirelli PECI.MI, key investor Marco Tronchetti Provera said on Friday.
The Italian businessman controls Pirelli, which has a market value of 4.2 billion euros ($5.4 billion), through a complex chain led by his MTP SpA holding vehicle and comprising two other companies, GPI and Milan-listed Camfin.
The arrival of a new investor would help Camfin repay debt and give the investor a foothold in Pirelli, the world's fifth-largest tiremaker by sales with facilities in five continents.
In an emailed statement a spokesman for MTP said contacts and talks with various parties interested in playing a part in the restructuring of Camfin's ownership structure were ongoing.
However the spokesman added "there were not, and are not at present, any agreements, even preliminary, in this regard."
Pirelli is counting on growing sales in emerging markets while it faces weakening demand in Europe, where it made 35 percent of its sales in 2012.
Its first-quarter net profit fell 42 percent to around 72 million euros ($92.3 million), hit by higher financial charges, while revenues fell 1.3 percent.
The statement also said the Malacalza family, the second-largest investor in GPI, had been approached in an attempt to resolve a long-running dispute.
Tronchetti Provera, who is CEO of Pirelli, and the Malacalzas have been locked in a dispute over how best to repay debt at Camfin, which controls 26 percent of Pirelli. At the end of March, Camfin had net debt of 385 million euros.
The Pirelli head has previously said a resolution with the Malacalza family was needed before any reorganization of the Camfin holding could be carried out.
The statement was issued on request of Italy's market regulator after daily Il Messagero reported the reorganization of the Pirelli group was accelerating, lifting its shares.
Pirelli shares, which are unchanged compared with a year ago, closed on Friday up 3.8 percent at 8.98 euros. The blue chip Milan index was up 0.35 percent.
Camfin, which also controls 14 percent of real estate company Prelios (PCRE.MI), is 42.6 percent owned by Tronchetti Provera and 12 percent by the Malacalzas.
($1 = 0.7742 euros)
(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes and Danilo Masoni; Editing by Mark Potter)