By Pamela Barbaglia, Paola Arosio and Robert Hetz
LONDON/MILAN/MADRID May 9 Italian toll road
operator Atlantia is planning to submit a takeover bid
for Spanish rival Abertis within days, two sources
familiar with the situation said on Tuesday, hoping to bridge
differences over price that have held up negotiations in the
past few weeks.
A merger between Atlantia and Abertis would create Europe's
biggest toll road group, with a combined market value of more
than 36 billion euros ($39.21 billion).
It would also speed up Atlantia's plans to diversify away
from its home market, with the combined group generating around
60 percent of its core profit outside Italy.
Atlantia, controlled by the Benetton family, confirmed last
month it was considering a deal with Abertis providing it was
friendly and created shareholder value.
"It's a matter of days. The offer could come towards the end
of this week or early next week," one of the sources said,
adding that the two parties were keen to reach a friendly
Representatives at Atlantia were not immediately available
for comment, while Abertis declined to comment.
The Rome-base group has yet to hammer out the final terms of
the deal, the sources said, and plug differences over Abertis'
Two of the sources said Atlantia had initially approached
Abertis with a 16 euro-a-share bid but Abertis's main
shareholder, La Caixa, had asked for 17 euros per share, valuing
the Barcelona-based business at around 16.8 billion euros,
slightly above its market value of 16.6 billion euros.
A third source said the Spaniards wanted a valuation above
16 euros per share.
"The final price is likely to be somewhere in the middle. I
don't think the Benettons will pull out due to a relatively
minor valuation difference," one of the sources said.
Abertis shares were trading at 16.28 euros at 1304 GMT.
The sources said Atlantia has secured a financing package
worth around 11 billion euros to back a cash and share bid.
Reuters previously reported that Atlantia's advisers Credit
Suisse and Mediobanca and Abertis' adviser
Citi had committed to provide financing for the deal.
The pool of lending banks will also include Italian lenders
UniCredit and Intesa Sanpaolo and France's
BNP Paribas and Societe Generale among
Atlantia will hold a board meeting on Friday to discuss its
first-quarter results and may try to formalise its bid for
Abertis, the sources said, although a final decision had yet to
Atlantia, which operates Rome's two airports and around
5,000 km of toll motorways, has long been trying to lure its
Spanish rival to the negotiating table, the sources said.
But Abertis, considered one of Catalonia's "crown jewels",
has only recently started contemplating the possibility of a
sale to enable the business to cope with domestic challenges
including a series of concessions that will soon expire, the
($1 = 0.9180 euros)
(Additional reporting by Francesca Landini and Stephen Jewkes
in Milan. Editing by Jane Merriman)