MADRID (Reuters) - The board of Abertis ABE.MC wants Atlantia (ATL.MI) to improve its offer for the Spanish toll road group although the Italians have the backing of a key shareholder in a takeover battle.
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 added that the price could be higher given the rival bid.
“The bigger size and a complementary geographical presence would make the new group more competitive, extending the average duration of concessions compared to Abertis’ current situation, strengthening the asset portfolio and boosting growth,” Abertis said in a statement on Thursday.
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.
Atlantia, controlled by the Benetton family, is offering 16.5 euros in cash or 0.697 Atlantia shares for every Abertis share.
Abertis said shareholder Criteria Caixa was ready “as of today” to take up Atlantia’s offer, accepting in exchange for its 15.08 percent stake shares in the Italian toll road operator.
Banking foundation la Caixa is the biggest investor in Abertis through the 15 percent held by Criteria, which it manages, and another 7.2 percent holding owned by Inversiones Autopistas.
Also nine of Abertis’ 15 board members, including the chairman and the chief executive, favor Atlantia’s bid, the company said.
The Catalan group also said it was not planning to tender under Atlantia’s bid treasury shares worth 7.96 percent of its capital and added the board would give its opinion in due time over Hochtief’s bid.
Hochtief expects the takeover process to extend into next year, Chief Executive Marcelino Fernandez Verdes told staff in a memo.
“The submission of an Abertis offer is only the start,” he said.
Hochtief is offering 18.76 euros in cash, or 0.1281 Hochtief shares, for each Abertis share and has set a minimum acceptance threshold of 50 percent plus one share.
Reporting by Jose Elias Rodriguez in Madrid, Valentina Za in Milan and Matthias Inverardi/Arno Schuetze in Frankfurt; Editing by Keith Weir