Blackstone and Benetton families bid to privatize Italy’s Atlantia in €54 billion deal

Blackstone and the billionaire family behind Italian fashion brand Benetton have bid to buy Italian infrastructure group Atlantia, valuing the toll road operator at around €54 billion.

The €23 a share offer will mark the largest private sale ever for a listed company in Europe and will end a tumultuous period for investors. of Atlantia, where the coronavirus pandemic and the 2018 Morandi Bridge collapse in Genoa occurred. stock options.

It comes less than a year after Blackstone agreed to buy a stake in Atlantia’s toll branch, Autostrade per l’Italia (Aspi), for €9.3 billion, as part of the state-owned consortium Cassa Depositi e Prestiti is at the top. It’s separate face to face According to a person familiar with the matter, it is expected to be completed by May 5.

Blackstone and Edizione, a parent company that manages the assets of Italy’s Benetton family and already owns a third of Atlantia, confirmed its intention to bid for the motorway operator on Thursday, following reports last week about the possibility of an agreement. Atlantia will remain separate from Aspi if a deal is agreed.

The offer is the latest development in a long-running story about the company’s ownership. The Benetton family has been under pressure to find a buyer for all or part of Atlantia since the Morandi bridge was under maintenance by a subsidiary in Atlantia.

Florentino Pérez, Grupo ACS president and Real Madrid football club president, is said to be working on a possible bid with Brookfield Asset Management and Global Infrastructure Partners.

Given the existing stake in Bennetons, the chances of a rival, hostile offer being “extremely limited,” noted analysts at Cowan. “Hard to see any real impediment to this deal closing as planned,” they said.

The bid rates Atlantia, they added, at 11.5 times next year’s expected earnings.

According to data provider Refinitiv, it will mark the largest private equity-backed deal in Europe on record, topping Incentives 21 billion euros for Blackstone’s European warehouse portfolio Mileway and KKR’s £11.1 billion acquisition of chemist chain Boots in 2007.

Atlantia owns airports in Nice, St Tropez, Cannes and Rome as well as motorways in 11 countries including Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, the US and India. It operates toll roads in 24 countries.

Edizione will own 65% of Atlantia under the proposed deal and Blackstone will own 35%.

The bid values ​​the company’s equity at around €19 billion. It had 35.3 billion euros in net debt as of December 31, bringing its corporate value to 54.3 billion euros, although the debt is likely to decline once the sale of Aspi is completed.

The offer values ​​Atlantia’s stock at 24% above the highway operator’s closing price last week before rumors of the deal began to circulate. Atlantia shareholders will receive a proposed dividend of 74 cents in May.

Shares of Atlantia rose 5% to €23 on Thursday.

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