India's Biggest SUV Maker Moves Forward With Talks to Buy Italy's Pininfarina

Updated on
  • Pininfarina creditor banks must approve sale of car designer
  • Italian designer said on Nov. 12 deal expected in a few weeks

Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., India’s largest maker of sport utility vehicles, is moving forward with negotiations to purchase Italian car designer Pininfarina SpA, people familiar with the matter said.

The companies are seeking to seal an accord by the end of the year after delays in reaching an agreement with Pininfarina’s creditor banks, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. Mahindra may invest as much as 150 million euros ($164 million), including debt and fresh capital, one of the people said. While talks are advancing, they could still fall apart, the people said.

Ferrari 458 Spider
Ferrari 458 Spider
Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Pininfarina said last month that talks between its controlling investor, Pincar Srl, and Mahindra for the sale of a majority stake were “ongoing” and it was expecting an agreement in “a few weeks.” Italian newspaper MF reported Thursday that Pincar was going to be liquidated because of doubts that an agreement could be reached with Mahindra.

Pininfarina shares fell 9 percent in Milan on Thursday, giving it a market value of 123 million euros. Mahindra was little changed as of 9:52 a.m. in Mumbai trading Friday. Representatives for Mahindra didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment, while a Pininfarina representative said discussions were continuing.  

The takeover of Turin-based Pininfarina, the creator of the Ferrari 458 Spider roadster, would add design flair to Mahindra following its acquisitions of South Korean carmaker Ssangyong and the scooter unit of French auto manufacturer PSA Peugeot Citroen. Pininfarina already cooperates with Mumbai-based Mahindra on SUV development and worked with it on the TUV300 compact SUV. 

Bloomberg first reported talks with Mahindra in March. Pininfarina said last month it presented a business plan developed with Mahindra to creditor banks in September.

Pininfarina has been unprofitable for 10 of the past 11 years while struggling with debt. It shut a floundering division that built cars for other manufacturers three years ago. The design firm, established in 1930, has also been involved in creating the Rolls-Royce Camargue, Cadillac Allante and Maserati Quattroporte as well as automotive classics such as the Ferrari 250 GT and Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider. It also has design projects outside the automotive industry, including apartment towers, vending machines and toothbrushes.

Pincar ceded control of its 76 percent stake in Pininfarina to banks as a guarantee for debt restructuring in 2012. Those creditors, which include UniCredit SpA and Intesa Sanpaolo SpA, need to approve any sale.

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