Atlantia Rejects Initial CDP Bid for Autostrade, Talks Continue

Atlantia SpA said a bid from Italy’s state-backed lender doesn’t reflect the value of its toll-road unit Autostrade per l’Italia SpA, but that its board agreed Tuesday to continue talks through Oct. 27 on an eventual binding offer.

The lender, Cassa Depositi e Prestiti SpA, on Monday presented a non-binding bid along with funds Macquarie Group Ltd. and Blackstone Group Inc. for the 88% stake in Autostrade owned by the billionaire Benetton family’s Atlantia, according to a statement Monday.

CDP’s bid was preliminary and subject to a 10-week due diligence process. Atlantia’s board said Tuesday it will meet again on Oct. 28 to examine a possible new, binding bid.

Although the Benettons agreed to cede control of the highway company to investors led by CDP in July, the two sides have so far failed to reach a final deal amid differences over the value of the assets and legal questions.

Offer Price

CDP has not to date provided details on the price of its offer. Following a due diligence process, the price will be discounted for legal risks, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The state lender will have the right to appoint Autostrade’s chief executive officer and chairman, the person said, asking not to be named discussing a confidential process.

Lawmakers from Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s coalition have periodically threatened to scrap the company’s contract to manage most of Italy’s toll highways if a deal isn’t reached. Rome and the Benettons have tussled over the highway unit since the 2018 collapse of a bridge in Genoa on a section of road managed by the company.

The sale of the stake by Atlantia to CDP is seen by all the parties in Conte’s fractious governing majority as an acceptable way to ensure the Benetton family’s exit from the toll-road operator without kicking off a long and contentious revocation process, which could cost the government over 20 billion euros ($24 billion) in a worst-case scenario.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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