Italian business aircraft manufacturer Piaggio Aero has confirmed that the crown prince of Abu Dhabi is among potential investors interested in acquiring the quarter stake currently held largely by the Ferrari automotive family and Italian government.

The Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera is expected to report tomorrow that a holding of around 20% purchased in 2003 by the Italian state investment agency Sviluppo Italia for €20 million ($22.4 million) and some of the shares held by Pierro Ferrari, are to be sold to Mubadala Development, a wholly-owned investment vehicle of the government of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. Its chief executive, crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed took a 5% stake in Ferrari last year and also owns 100% of Horizon International Flight Academy.

Piaggio says in a statement that the claim "is purely speculative" and adds that it “doesn’t comment on rumours".
However, the Genoa-based company says the speculation is partially true, rejecting a parallel claim that the company is to be listed on the Milan stock exchange, but confirming that bin Zayed is "extremely interested" in acquiring a stake.

Abu Dhabi has been keen to establish itself as an aerospace centre and a stake in Piaggio may replace a now-aborted plan for Abu Dhabi City-based Gulf Aircraft Maintenance (Gamco) to establish the Gulf region's first aircraft assembly line. Gamco was to produce the Farnbrough Aircraft F1 highspeed turboprop and market it as the JP100 Kestrel.

Strict European competition law may have opened the door for the investment in Piaggio. Sviluppo Italia took its stake (and Ferrari increased his investment simultaneously) specifically to fund production line expansion to allow the company to ramp up manufacture of the P180 twin pusher. This process is now complete and the investment agency could be obliged by European state aid rules to exit its investment. 

If the sale went ahead, it would follow other recent investments by Gulf state governments. Last week Dubai launched its bid to be an all-service aerospace provider with the establishment of the Dubai Aerospace Enterprise.

Piaggio says it will release further details in the coming days.

Source: Flight International