MILAN Jan 9 Italian motorway group Atlantia SpA
and Gemina, which controls Rome airport
operator ADR, have started talks over a possible merger, they
said on Wednesday.
The two companies, which are both controlled by the Benetton
family's holding company Sintonia, said in brief separate
statements that negotiations had begun on Wednesday.
Combining the two companies would help ADR with a 2.5
billion-euro ($3.3 billion) investment plan for the airport at
Fiumicino by giving it better access to capital markets, sources
with direct knowledge of the matter had said on Tuesday.
It would also further streamline the Benettons' control of
some of their infrastructure activities.
One idea is for Atlantia to launch a cash takeover offer for
Gemina, although a share deal could not be ruled out at this
stage, one of the sources said on Wednesday.
"Cash would be more market-friendly since it would give
Gemina shareholders a way out if they did not want to stay in
the combined entity," the source said.
The aim would be for Atlantia to buy the 64 percent of
Gemina that Sintonia does not already own, which at current
market prices is worth about 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion).
Atlantia has a market value of 9.1 billion euros.
"January will be a month for studying the options, while
February will see the start of the execution process," one of
the sources said on Wednesday.
Atlantia's shares closed 0.4 percent higher on Wednesday at
13.8 euros, while Gemina - whose stock has risen sharply over
the past month on the back of takeover speculation - was down 1
percent at 1.18 euros.
(Reporting By Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Greg Mahlich)