Atlantia shares rally on exclusive talks with CDP

MILAN/ROME (Reuters) – Shares in Atlantia ATL.MI rose more than 10% on Wednesday after it entered exclusive talks with Italian state lender CDP over the sale of its motorway assets, a sign that a solution to a long-drawn out dispute with Rome could be near.

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past the logo of an infrastructure group Atlantia outside their headquarters, in Rome, Italy October 5, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo

Three sources close to the situation said investment funds Blackstone BX.N and Macquarie could team up with CDP in a bid for Atlantia’s 88% stake in Autostrade per l’Italia, but talks were at a preliminary stage. One of the people said Italian infrastructure fund F2i may also become part of the consortium.

The news of Blackstone and Macquarie possibly joining CDP was first reported by dailies La Repubblica and Il Messaggero.

Atlantia said on Tuesday it had entered exclusive talks with CDP until Oct. 18, adding it was open to considering a potential offer from CDP and other investors for the Autostrade stake.

Atlantia’s shares were up 9.2% by 1020 GMT.

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“An agreement with CDP for the sale of (Autostrade) would eliminate the political risk, solve the debt problem in the holding company …, accelerate the return to an investment grade rating of the group and ensure financial flexibility to Atlantia,” broker Equita said in a note.

Blackstone, Macquarie and CDP declined to comment.

Atlantia has been embroiled in a legal dispute with the Italian government since 2018 when a bridge run by Autostrade collapsed, killing 43 people. The government has threatened to strip Autostrade of its motorway licence.

The two parties had moved closer to a deal in July, when Rome approved a plan that would see Atlantia cede control of Autostrade to CDP, but talks had since stalled due to disagreements over how to implement it.

According to Il Messaggero, an offer from the CDP-led consortium could be presented as soon as Oct. 18, a day before Atlantia holds a board meeting, and could be worth 8 billion to 10 billion euros.

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