Atlantia Seeks Tech Expansion With $10 Billion Autostrade Check

Atlantia SpA, the infrastructure company controlled by the billionaire Benetton family, is seeking to invest in tech mobility services with part of the 8 billion euros ($9.7 billion) payout it will receive from the sale of its Italian highway-toll unit.

The Italian company, which agreed to sell its Autostrade unit to end an almost three year dispute following the deadly collapse of a bridge in Genoa, has been meeting investors to unveil its “next” strategy, Chief Executive Officer Carlo Bertazzo said in an interview.

Atlantia Seeks Tech Expansion With $10 Billion Autostrade Check

“We are planning to boost digital services and tech platforms for the transportation industry and also continuing to invest in physical assets such as airports,” Bertazzo said.

Atlantia also plans to continue seeking international expansion in highway assets around the world through Abertis Infraestructuras SA, the Spanish highway operator that it jointly controls with Spanish builder ACS’s top shareholder and Chairman Florentino Perez, Bertazzo said. He added that growth in Latin America’s airport network is “interesting.”

In Italy, Atlantia controls Aeroporti di Roma SpA, which runs Rome airport, and it’s a minority shareholder in Bologna airport. It also controls the hubs in Nice and Saint-Tropez in France. Atlantia is also among the top shareholders in Getlink SE, the owner of Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel.

Last month, investors at Atlantia backed the sale of Autostrade to an investor group led by Italian state-backed lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti SpA after years of skirmishing with the Italian government. Atlantia had been under fire ever since 43 people died in a 2018 bridge collapse in Genoa on a roadway managed by Autostrade. The tragedy also led to billions of euros in legal claims.

The company also said Tuesday it will create a global corporate venture capital fund, open to new partners, with “several million euros of capital available to invest” in seed capital, coaching for startups and in the mobility sector.

“For example, we would like to focus our new venture capital fund on some mobility industry niches, developing true digital ecosystems, maybe linked to facial recognition to allow a faster access to airport gates” Bertazzo said.

To do that, the company is seeking partners: “We’d like to copy what a spinoff of Alphabet’s cities-of-the-future arm, Sidewalk Labs, did last year, raising a $400 million round from Alphabet and from investment giant Ontario Teachers Pension Plan,” he said.

Another example of Atlantia investing in new technology is its participation in a 200 million euro funding round for Volocopter GmbH, which competing to become the first electric air-taxi firm to start commercial flights.

Atlantia will distribute about 600 million euros to shareholders in 2022, with estimated 3%-5% annual growth in the following years. The holding company will also consider buybacks for as much as 2 billion euros.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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