MADRID, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Spain’s government on Thursday asked the country’s stock market regulator to revoke the authorisation it gave in October for Atlantia’s 16-billion-euro ($18.88 billion) takeover bid for Spanish toll-road operator Abertis.
The infrastructure ministry told the regulator it should not have authorised the bid as Atlantia, Italy’s largest motorway operator, had not previously obtained the Spanish government’s permission to take control of Abertis’s satellites business.
The government considers Hispasat a strategic asset since it controls Spain’s national satellite communications system. Abertis has a 57.05 percent stake, while the government owns more than 9 percent through public companies.
The CNMV regulator said in a statement it had one month to respond to the government’s request, which was confirmed by both the government and the CNMV.
Atlantia is competing against Hochtief, the German arm of Spanish builder ACS, for Abertis. ACS is currently in the lead having submitted a higher bid on Oct. 18 that values Abertis at 17.1 billion euros.
In a statement, Atlantia said it had always complied with the CNMV’s requirements and Spanish legislation.
The Rome-based firm said it had informed the Spanish ministries about its willingness to provide any relevant information or documentation and wanted to reassure the government over its plans for Abertis.
“We remain available to discuss any requirements of the government in this aspect,” it said. “We remain highly committed to making Abertis the undisputed infrastructure leader in Spain and Latin America by contributing our assets in Brazil and Chile and by keeping Abertis listed and headquartered in Spain.”
In its takeover bid prospectus, Atlantia justified its decision to not ask for authorisation from the Spanish government by saying neither Abertis nor Hispasat were involved in activities related to Spain’s national security. Atlantia has said it is willing to sell the stake in Hispasat if necessary.
“Hispasat does not manufacture, or buy goods or technology that are used to produce military hardware,” the prospectus said. ($1 = 0.8476 euros) (Reporting by Robert Hetz; Additional reporting by Pamela Barbaglia; Writing by Angus Berwick; Editing by Adrian Croft)