It’s time for the Sherpas in the intricate affair of Autostrade per l’Italia: from Monday, Atlantia’s advisors will probe the Spanish intentions to set up the work for the next few weeks. After Florentino Pérez’s ACS entered the scene, which first with a letter and then with a press release expressed its interest in Aspi, the Benetton infrastructural holding must decide what to do. It faces only one certain option: the binding offer of the consortium led by Cassa Depositi e Prestiti and in which the international funds Blackstone and Macquarie participate, which values Autostrade 9.1 billion euros, also recognizing any reliefs and requesting guarantees on compensation for 870 millions. And one still completely uncertain: that, in fact, presented by the Spanish billionaire famous in the world for being the president of Real Madrid. For now Pérez has remained on the general-generic, saying that Aspi is worth between 9 and 10 billion. But it has not specified times and methods, except that it is ready to enlist “other potential investors” such as the CDP, which however does not seem willing to play its game with funds to the end without opening up to new compromises.
In the days to come, therefore, Atlantia’s financial advisors – who are Mediobanca, JpMorgan and BofA Merrill Lynch – will try to understand the terms of the operation mentioned by the Spaniards. Also to bring a clearer picture to the board of Atlantia which will meet again on Thursday, at the latest on Friday. It will probably be the first of a series of meetings in which the directors, pressed by the shareholders (starting with the combative ICT fund that aims to raise the price), will have to draw conclusions on the offer of Cdp & Co on the one hand, and on the other hand to understand whether the intentions of Pérez, who has so far been acting blindly, without having done a single day of due diligence, the in-depth examination that precedes a complex offer such as that on Autostrade per l’Italia.
Pérez and the Benettons know each other very well. In fact, Atlantia, in addition to having 24% of the construction company Hochtief (where Acs has 50%), has 50% plus one share in Abertis, where Acs is a subsidiary for the other half. In Atlantia’s plans, Abertis is the platform with which to proceed with development abroad, through acquisitions. The intention of the Spanish tycoon is to create a European pole of highways by merging Aspi and Abertis. And, with the help of allies, take the lead. According to UBS analysts “the situation is complex, but in our opinion an agreement would create value”.
On the solution of the Autostrade case, born following the tragedy of the Morandi Bridge, there is again stalemate. The new government no longer raises the bugbear of revoking the concession. Thus, despite the assurances of the Benettons on the willingness to leave the dealership (but at market conditions), even the rush seems to have vanished. Time, however, is running out. The offer of Cdp & Co, without a meeting, expires on April 16. If the meeting is called, it will remain on the table, unless extended, until May 28th. If someone wants to drop the cards, they have to do it quickly. But it is very unlikely that the CDP and its allies will raise the price. While politics chooses softer tones than in the past, an outsider like Alessandro Di Battista remains to imagine drastic solutions: “For me – the former exponent of the 5 Stars says to the beraking latest news agency – there remains only the revocation and nationalization of Autostrade l ‘only solution. The highways were built with the money of the citizens and the owners of the highways must be the citizens, therefore the state ”.