“Given the close relationship between our groups following the successful joint acquisition of Abertis, ACS has been following the ASPI situation during the last months and we believe ASPI is a very interesting asset that perfectly fits ACS’s long-term strategy,” Pérez wrote in the letter. ACS, run by one of Spain’s richest men Florentino Pérez, is hoping to add ASPI to its network of global toll roads, which it runs through holdings in Abertis, a company it part owns with Atlantia.
He said ACS was valuing ASPI at between €9bn and €10bn, based on an analysis of public information. Chris Hohn, the London-based hedge fund manager whose firm TCI has a 10 per cent economic interest in Atlantia, told the FT that he welcomed the interest from ACS.
Atlantia declined to comment on ACS’ interest. One person close to the talks said the letter would be discussed today but it was “premature to make any further assessment on it”. He expected Atlantia’s board “to engage promptly and professionally to explore the opportunity of a combination of Abertis and ASPI.”
Atlantia’s board is meeting today to discuss the proposal received last week by the funds led by CDP, which valued ASPI at about €9bn. Atlantia owns an 88 per cent stake in ASPI. Pérez, who is also president of Real Madrid, added that ACS would be willing to accommodate other investors in the offer, including Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, the Italian state fund that has been working with a consortium of investors including Blackstone and Macquarie on a rival deal.
Italy’s new government, led by Mario Draghi, has so far taken a less interventionist stance than its predecessor on the sale of ASPI. Hohn added: “ACS-Abertis seem prepared to offer a higher price than CDP for Aspi and are clearly a superior industrial partner than Blackstone and Macquarie. ASPI should be allowed to be sold to the highest bidder without interference from the Italian government.”
Italy would have to pay Atlantia more than €20bn in compensation if it terminates the contract before its expiry date. Italy’s former government, led by Giuseppe Conte, threatened to strip Atlantia of concessions to operate the toll roads as a way to punish the billionaire Benetton family, which has a controlling stake in Atlantia, for the Genoa bridge collapse. The current agreement to run the motorways ends in 2038. Enrico Giovannini, transport minister, told Italian media last month he hoped the matter would soon be solved to allow the company to focus on maintenance and infrastructure investments.
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- ACS approaches Atlantia with an offer of 10 billion euros for the Italian motorway network
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