March 22, 2018 / 5:13 PM / a month ago

Europe's top towers group could end up under Benetton control: sources

MILAN/ROME (Reuters) - Towers group Cellnex (CLNX.MC) could end up being owned by Benetton’s Edizione if the Italian holding company’s infrastructure business Atlantia (ATL.MI) purchases a stake in the Spanish company, two source close to the matter said.

Telecom antennas of Spain's telecoms infrastructures firm Cellnex are seen under main telecom tower, known as "Piruli", in Madrid, Spain, March 10, 2016. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

Atlantia was given an option to buy between 29.9 and 34 percent of Cellnex under an agreement it signed last week to acquire Spanish toll-road operator Abertis (ABE.MC), which controls the towers group.

This option expires on Friday and gives Atlantia the opportunity to acquire Cellnex shares at between 21.20 and 21.50 euros each, compared with a current market price of 21.71 euros.

Under European rules, Atlantia would have to make a full takeover if it buys a stake of 30 percent or more and last week Atlantia’s CEO said it had no plans to buy all of Cellnex.

“Atlantia will likely exercise the option to buy the 29.9 percent and then find partners interested in developing the telecom towers business ... Edizione could be one of the suitors, but there are also many others,” one source said.

“Edizione is keen on Cellnex and it is likely it would get it ... depending on the price and conditions offered by other possible suitors,” the second source said.

“Advisers are looking around for possible investors interested in the asset, they have until this evening,” the second source added.

    Marco Patuano, who heads Edizione, knows the towers sector well because of his past experience as chief executive of Telecom Italia (TLIT.MI), Italy’s biggest phone group.

    He has said last year Cellnex was a valuable asset.

    The option grants Atlantia the possibility to buy 29.9 percent of the No. 1 European player in the sector with a portfolio of more than 27,000 towers across the region for up to 1.49 billion euros. Cellnex’s total market value is 5 billion euros.

    Atlantia sold its small towers unit TowerCo to Abertis in 2014. The Spanish firm then spun off its combined masts assets the following year and listed them under the Cellnex name.

    “There are other towers assets in Europe that could be on sale ... it needs a ‘conductor’ with a European vision who can trigger consolidation in the sector,” a financial source said.

    ($1 = 0.8123 euros)

    Reporting by Stefano Bernabei in ROME, Paola Arosio and Francesca Landini in MILAN; Editing by Alexander Smith

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