October 19, 2017 / 7:07 AM / a year ago

Top Abertis investor backs Atlantia bid despite higher ACS offer

MADRID, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Spanish toll road operator Abertis said its top shareholder was ready to take up an acquisition offer by Italy’s Atlantia although its board thought the price could be improved after a rival offered more.

Trumping Atlantia’s bid, German builder Hochtief, controlled by Spain’s ACS, made a 17.1 billion euro ($20 billion) offer for Abertis on Wednesday.

Atlantia’s bid, worth around 15.7 billion euros on a comparable basis, would create the world’s biggest toll-roads operator, helping both companies in their drive to branch out from their home markets.

Abertis said its board saw several “industrial and strategic” advantages in Atlantia’s offer but thought there was room to improve the price, also in light of the competing bid.

It said Criteria Caixa, the top investor in Abertis with 15.08 percent of voting rights, was ready “as of today” to take up Atlantia’s offer, accepting in exchange for its stake shares in the Italian toll road operator.

Atlantia CEO Giovanni Castellucci was quoted as saying in the Italian press on Thursday that the group would assess all options regarding possible changes to its bid. ($1 = 0.8473 euros) (Reporting by Jose Elias Rodriguez and Valentina Za; Editing by Keith Weir)

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