Atlantia Shareholders Meet in Bid to Resolve Autostrade Feud
A long-simmering feud over Italy’s largest highway operator could be resolved on Monday as Atlantia SpA shareholders meet to approve the sale of Autostrade SpA to a group led by state-backed lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti.
Investors at Atlantia -- the global infrastructure giant controlled by the billionaire Benetton family -- may vote to approve a deal at a meeting in Rome, in the latest effort to resolve the dispute. If they give their go-ahead, the sale of Autostrade could be approved by Atlantia’s board on June 10.
That would mark a crucial step toward ending a years-long saga that’s seen the company do battle with three consecutive governments amid often-acrimonious negotiations between Rome and Atlantia’s controlling shareholders and executives.
The Benettons have signaled that they favor a sale while proxy advisers have also indicated they’ll give the green light to ending the impasse.
Cassa Depositi, along with funds Macquarie Group Ltd. and Blackstone Group Inc., has been bidding for Autostrade since last summer, with Atlantia’s board rejecting a string of previous offers. The final bid values the company at 9.3 billion euros ($11.3 billion). Atlantia owns about 88% of Autostrade.
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A decision to sell would close the curtain on more than two decades of Benetton ownership of Autostrade. The family, which bought the company during Italy’s privatization campaign in the late 1990s, has been under pressure to give up its holding ever since the deadly Morandi bridge disaster in Genoa in 2018 on a section of road it managed.
The bridge’s collapse killed 43 people and led to billions of euros in legal claims. At the time of the accident, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and his populist coalition threatened to revoke Autostrade’s toll contracts after a ministerial commission charged that the company had underestimated the deterioration of the structure.
The incident triggered national outrage and led to the eventual resignation and arrest of former Atlantia Chief Executive Officer Giovanni Castellucci.
Signing off on the deal would be one of the first acts for Cassa Depositi’s new Chief Executive Officer Dario Scannapieco. Prime Minister Mario Draghi last week named Scannapieco, who worked alongside him at the Italian Treasury during the privatization drive, to run the state lender.
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