Italy's Atlantia launches a 16.34 billion euro ($18 billion) cash-and-share offer for Spain's Abertis in a bid to create the world's biggest operator of toll roads, with 14,095 km under its management. Sonia Legg reports.
"Atlantia, we are the world's largest private investor in motorway and airport infrastructure...." They're already big but Italy's Atlantia is hoping to get bigger. In a bid to diversify from its home market the world's largest toll road operator - owned by the Benetton family - has made a cash-and-share offer for Spain's Abertis worth 16.3 billion euros. The two have been in talks for weeks and it's a friendly move. It's also not the first time they've tried to join forces. An agreed merger in 2006 fell through due to Italian government opposition. Atlantia's decision to have another go follows a prolonged period of low-growth in Italy. Abertis gets a third of its core earnings from France and has extensive operations in Latin America. A combined group would generate 60 percent of core earnings outside Italy. And give Abertis new business opportunities at a time when it's facing the expiration of motorway concessions in Spain. But there is a potential hold-up ahead - Abertis needs the support of a key shareholder. Criteria owns a 22 percent stake in the Spanish firm. It says it's carefully considering the offer, and it's thought their response could take some time.