CDP-led offer for Atlantia's unit set to win broad backing -sources

MILAN (Reuters) – A broad majority of Atlantia’s investors are set to back the sale of the group’s motorway unit to Italian state lender CDP and allies, two sources close to the matter said, ending a dispute triggered by a bridge disaster in 2018.

Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), together with Blackstone and Macquarie, put forward an offer valuing Atlantia’s Autostrade per l’Italia unit at 9.3 billion euros ($11 billion) last month.

The proposal is sponsored by the government, which has been seeking to regain control of Autostrade ever since a bridge run by the toll-road company in the port city of Genoa gave way and killed 43 people on Aug. 14, 2018.

Proxy advisers have recommended investors in Atlantia give their go-ahead to the sale of the infrastructure group’s 88% stake in Autostrade to the CDP consortium.

“A broad backing is expected at today’s shareholders meeting”, one of the sources said on Monday.

Another source said that the support from proxy advisers had acted as a catalyst for many funds that hold Atlantia’s shares which were now expected to vote in favour of the CDP-led proposal.

A deal would mean that the powerful Benetton family, which controls Atlantia, will bow out of Autostrade, as requested by a part of Italy’s governing coalition.

It would also release capital and managers’ time at the group, allowing it to pursue new initiatives after nearly three years of impasse.

The transaction is expected to go through even if some minority shareholders, including TCI, are against it. The activist fund has repeatedly criticised the deal, saying Autostrade is worth no less than 11 billion euros.

TCI had publicly backed an attempt by Florentino Perez to study a rival offer for Autostrade through infrastructure group ACS, but the Spanish entrepreneur did not win the support from the Italian government for moving ahead with a binding bid.

Germany’s Allianz and funds DIF, EDF Invest and China’s Silk Road Fund, which own 12% of Autostrade, have an option to sell their stakes to the CDP consortium under the same conditions.

Shares in Atlantia were up 2.8% at in mid-day trading, outperforming a 0.3% rise in Milan’s blue chip index.

($1 = 0.8203 euros)

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