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Strutting onto the podium at t

Strutting onto the podium at the Geneva motor show this week to unveil two new models, the flamboyant Ferrari president Luca Cordero di Montezemolo showed no sign of nerves.

Mr Montezemolo is getting ready to float Ferrari shares

He was clearly aware that as far as butch stallions go, it is hard to beat the Italian supercar maker's new models.

"It's an important day for Ferrari, it's an important day for our family, it's an important day for Maserati and for Fiat," Mr Montezemolo declared at the Geneva motor show, where the 483bhp F430 Spider had its world premiere and the Superamerica had its European premiere

But rather than being a unifying moment for Fiat's car family, the occasion marked perhaps the last time when the two siblings Ferrari and Maserati stood shoulder to shoulder.

Ready to run

Ferrari has long been the dominant partner in the Ferrari-Maserati partnership, which is majority owned by the industrial giant Fiat Group, with the remaining 34% being held by the Italian bank Mediobanca.

But with group chief executive Sergio Marchionne tightening the reins across all its subsidiaries in a feverish attempt to control galloping costs, Ferrari has seen the partnership crumble.

Consequently, Maserati is being absorbed by Fiat Group where it will work closely with Fiat Auto's subsidiary Alfa Romeo.

"Maserati must look for new opportunities, and why not seek them out at home?" said Karl-Heinz Kalbfell, chief executive of both Alfa Romeo and Maserati.

"Alfa Romeo is the natural partner, but there will be no merger. Alfa is Alfa and Maserati, Maserati."

Ferrari, then, will be left to its own devices.

It is not obvious whether this is good news or bad news for Ferrari.

Last year, it put a great deal of both effort and money into reviving the shine of Maserati's coat, so having her removed from its stable just as she is ready to run must be frustrating.

But Maserati was losing money, so getting rid of the marque strengthens the financial position of the already profitable prancing horse.

Schumacher's 'boss'

Ferrari is in rude health. Last year its sales, which included Maserati models, reached a record 1.5bn euros ($1.97bn; £1.03bn) and its order book is filling up quicker than it is making cars.

Despite the cost of restructuring Maserati last year, Ferrari is profitable too - except in the US market where it saw a 13% rise in sales last year to 1,350 cars, but lost money due to the weak dollar.

With its Formula One team roaring ahead, breaking records and winning races, it seems the time is ripe at last to go ahead with a stock market flotation.

A listing has been on the cards for some time and there is currently much talk of it taking place in 2006 or 2007 after Mr Marchionne said it would not happen this year.

"We'll take one year at a time. Now we're trying to finish this one in peace," he said.

For fans of Ferrari's F1 star Michael Schumacher, the hope is that a decision comes soon so they can buy shares and become his boss before the iconic racing driver retires to the beach.
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