Atlantia Main Investors Block Toll-Road Unit Spin Off Plan

Shareholders of Italy’s Atlantia SpA failed to back a plan to spin off the company’s Autostrade per l’Italia highway unit, marking a possible further step toward selling the asset to a group led by state-backed lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti SpA.

The company’s extraordinary assembly on Monday didn’t approve the extension of the spinoff project, as it failed to reach a quorum of two-thirds of capital represented as required by Italian law.

The meeting followed a call by the billionaire Benetton family, which holds a 30% stake in Atlantia, for the board to focus on concluding months of talks on a sale. Italian banking foundation CRT, which holds about 5% of Atlantia, also voted against the extension.

A bidding group that includes Cassa Depositi, known as CDP, and funds Macquarie Group Ltd. and Blackstone Group Inc. is expected to marginally improve its offer for Autostrade this week. Atlantia’s board has rejected four previous bids.

The vote against extending the alternative plan of spinning off the highway unit means that agreeing to review the CDP-led bid is the only option left for the family to exit ownership of the company.

Read more: Benettons Urge Atlantia to Seal Highway Unit Sale to Italy

The CDP-led group previously made an offer which valued 100% of Autostrade at 9.1 billion euros ($11 billion), and its board is expected to maintain the same valuation in the new bid due to be approved Wednesday, according to people familiar with the matter.

That could fuel tension within the Atlantia board, as some investors including TCI Advisory Services LLP have opposed any deal with Cassa Depositi.

Sealing a deal with the lender would allow Atlantia to eliminate political risk linked to possible changes in toll license contracts and help reduce the holding company’s debt.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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