Autostrade Said Valued at $16.5 Billion in Stake Sale Talks

(Bloomberg) -- Italian toll-road operator Autostrade per L’Italia SpA is valued at about 15 billion euros ($16.5 billion) as owner Atlantia SpA, the infrastructure company controlled by the Benetton family, prepares to sell a minority stake, according to people familiar with the matter.

Atlantia’s advisers are gathering initial interest from potential buyers of a holding in the highway unit, said the people, who asked not be named because the discussions are private. Infrastructure businesses are luring long-term investors, and the demand may drive Autostrade’s valuation even higher, the people said.

PSP Investments, Allianz SE, the Kuwait Investment Authority’s Wren House Infrastructure Management unit, Caisse de Depot & Placement du Quebec, Gingko Tree Investment and Macquarie Group are among suitors considering bidding for the asset, said one of the people. Representatives of PSP, Allianz, Macquarie and Gingko declined to comment, while spokesmen for KIA and Caisse de Depot & Placement didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Atlantia shares rose as much as 2.6 percent, the most since July 1, and was trading up 1.9 percent to 22.51 euros as of 4:06 p.m. in Milan.

The estimate for Autostrade would represent about four-fifths of Rome-based Atlantia’s 18.6 billion-euro market value currently. Chief Executive Officer Giovanni Castellucci, who will present Atlantia’s new business plan Wednesday in London, wants to reduce the company’s dependence on Italy, and the disposal of about 15 percent of Autostrade would help fund expansion abroad. Atlantia could raise at least 2.5 billion euros with the sale, the people said.

International Assets

Autostrade’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization rose 1.8 percent last year to 2.72 billion euros on revenue of 4.32 billion euros. In addition to highways in Italy, the division also owns assets in Brazil and Chile.

Atlantia, which also controls Rome’s two airports, led the consortium which agreed in June to buy 60 percent of France’s third-biggest airport, Nice-Cote d’Azur, for 1.2 billion euros. The Rome-base company also signed last month a deal to buy 21 percent of SAVE SpA, the company which runs Venice Airport.

Atlantia plans to sell a 15 percent stake to attract long-term investors such as pension funds, Castellucci said in an interview with Italian daily Il Messaggero Oct. 9. Atlantia still is defining which assets will be in the disposal, one person said. An Atlantia spokesman declined to comment on the matter.

“Atlantia is not a forced seller, and it is our view that the sale would only take place if valuation is well above market valuation, even for a minority stake,” analysts at JPMorgan Chase & Co., led by Elodie Rall, wrote in a note to clients Oct. 12. The analysts estimated that Autostrade has an equity value of 11.2 billion euros, or 22 percent below a fair value of 14.7 billion euros.

Atlantia leads a partnership that agreed in June to buy 60 percent of France’s third-biggest airport, Nice-Cote d’Azur, for 1.2 billion euros. The company also signed a deal last month to acquire 21 percent of SAVE SpA, which runs the airport serving Venice, Italy.