December 6, 2018 / 4:43 PM / 10 months ago

Italy's Astaldi in bridge loan talks with Fortress to keep afloat - sources

ROME/MILAN, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Italian builder Astaldi is talking to Fortress and other alternative lenders to secure 70 million euros ($80 million) of immediate bridge funding in a race to stay afloat, three sources said on Thursday.

Italy’s biggest infrastructure builder by sales filed for court protection from creditors in September after being hit by delays to plans to sell a bridge in Turkey.

“The 70 million euros is the first tranche of an overall bridge package of some 200 million euros and will cover finance needs to the end of next February,” one of the sources said.

A 200 million euro loan would tide the builder over for about a year, the source added.

A second source said talks with investment companies Fortress and Sound Point Capital for the funding were ongoing, adding that the overall amount of the loan could still change.

Fortress and Sound Point Capital were not immediately available for a comment.

Astaldi has until Dec. 16 to present a rescue plan to the court but is expected to ask for 60 more days to better assess expressions of interest from potential partners.

Italian construction group Salini Impregilo and Japan’s IHI Corporation have both previously expressed interest in Astaldi.

Salini said in November its non-binding offer was for activities in the construction sector, adding it was analysing a possible industrial integration with its rival.

One of the sources said Salini would present a new non-binding offer with more detail by Dec. 15.

Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore said on Thursday that France’s Vinci was interested in certain contracts Astaldi had. Vinci declined to comment.

Italy’s construction sector has been dogged for years by slow growth, cuts in government spending and overseas setbacks.

The country’s third biggest builder Condotte SpA filed for creditor protection earlier this year, while contractor Trevi Finanziaria is restructuring debt.

The Italian government has pledged increased infrastructure spending as part of its 2019 budget plans which have brought it into conflict with Brussels for excessive deficit spending.

Astaldi had been hoping to sell its 33.3 percent stake in the Third Bosphorus Bridge in Turkey to boost liquidity and reduce debt, which was around 2 billion euros net end September.

But political turmoil in Turkey and a plunge in the currency led to delays for a sale that had been one of the conditions for launching a cash call of up to 300 million euros.

$1 = 0.8780 euros Reporting by Stefano Bernabei, Paola Arosio and Stephen Jewkes Additional reporting by Gilles Guillaume Editing by Edmund Blair

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