Atlantia says Fitch downgrade could trigger early debt repayment

MILAN, Jan 8 (Reuters) - A decision by Fitch Ratings on Wednesday to downgrade Italian infrastructure group Atlantia and its motorways unit Autostrade to “junk” could lead to an early repayment request on 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) of debt, Atlantia said.

Following a similar move by Moody’s last week, Fitch cut the ratings of both Atlantia and Autostrade below the triple-B investment grade threshold, citing a move by the government to make it easier to strip the group of its motorway concession in the wake of the deadly collapse of a bridge it operated.

Atlantia is now rated “BB” and Autostrade per l’Italia “BB+” and they both remain on watch for possible further downgrades given the uncertainty over the concession.

“Such decision, after a similar action ... by another rating agency, could trigger ... the request from the European Investment Bank and (state lender) Cassa Depositi e Prestiti of the early repayment - on the basis of existing agreements - of loans granted to Autostrade ... (for) 2.1 billion euros, of which 1.8 billion guaranteed by Atlantia,” the company said.

Atlantia said it would draw on existing credit lines to meet the potential repayments. ($1 = 0.9007 euro) (Reporting by Valentina Za in Milan Editing by Matthew Lewis)