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UPDATE 2-Italy's Atlantia scaling back at home to drive foreign expansion
October 19, 2016 / 10:16 AM / in a year

UPDATE 2-Italy's Atlantia scaling back at home to drive foreign expansion

* Infrastructure group plans to sell 15 pct of motorway unit ASPI

* Looks to acquisitions abroad in motorway and airport businesses

* Aims to generate 50 percent of core earnings abroad in 2020 (Recasts to add CEO quotes from investor day)

By Stephen Jewkes and Francesca Landini

MILAN, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Italian infrastructure group Atlantia aims to sell a 15 percent stake in its Autostrade per l‘Italia (ASPI) toll road business to help fund its expansion outside its home market, its chief executive said on Wednesday.

The group, 30 percent controlled by the Benetton family, is the sole owner of ASPI, which is valued at about 15 billion euros ($16.4 billion) by sector analysts.

Atlantia also owns Aeroporti di Roma (ADR), the company that runs Rome airports Fiumicino and Ciampino.

The group’s advisers, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse, will gather non-binding offers for ASPI in November.

The final offers and a preliminary contract are expected in February, Chief Executive Giovanni Castellucci told a meeting of analysts and investors in London.

The infrastructure group wants to boost the share of core earnings from its overseas operations to 50 percent in 2020 from the current 25 percent, the CEO said.

Atlantia expects strong demand for the ASPI stake from large pension and sovereign wealth funds keen to invest in Italy, Castellucci said, without naming any potential buyer.

“Atlantia is looking to speed up its international expansion by acquiring attractive motorway and airport assets,” Castellucci said.

ADR, however, would not be put on the block, he said. Last year Atlantia failed to sell a minority stake in the unit.

The group said it planned to restructure its activities into four divisions and separate its Italian motorway assets from those abroad to make the units more attractive for investors.

Atlantia this year bought a majority stake in France’s Nice Cote d‘Azur airport and a small stake in SAVE, the operator of Venice airport, and there is more to come.

“We will be picky on core assets: we will look at urban toll roads... and global destination airports,” Castellucci said, adding payments systems and toll collection businesses could also attract the group’s interest.

If Atlantia fails to find the right investment opportunities it will return the money to investors with a buyback.

In a statement issued ahead of its investor day, the company said it planned to spend more than 5 billion euros on its Italian motorway network over the next 5 years and 2.5 billion euros on its Rome airport assets.

The group also said it expected its revenue to grow to 6.8 billion euros in 2020 from the current 5.5 billion euros, with core earnings in the period growing around 7 percent per year.

It also expects to grow dividends by 10 percent per year from this year to 2020. ($1 = 0.9123 euros) (Additional reporting by Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Keith Weir)

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