ACS, Atlantia pursue Abertis deal despite bridge disaster

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MADRID (Reuters) - Italy’s Atlantia and Spain’s ACS are committed to their joint purchase of Abertis, despite the fatal collapse in August of a motorway bridge in Genoa run by Autostrade.

Atlantia, which owns Autostrade, and ACS agreed in March to jointly buy Spain’s Abertis to create the world’s biggest toll road operator, but the Italian bridge disaster raised questions over whether the deal would go ahead.

The Italian government has opened an investigation amid public outrage over the accident, in which 43 people were killed when the 1.1-km bridge on the A10 motorway that links Genoa and the French border collapsed.

In an interview with Italian newspaper Il Messaggero published on Thursday, Atlantia’s chairman Fabio Cerchiai, who is also chairman of Autostrade, said that Abertis was “essentially a done deal”, while an ACS spokesman in Madrid said the plans for Abertis were “unchanged”.

Rome’s anti-establishment government has blamed Autostrade for the collapse of the bridge and asked whether it could impact his own re-election and that of the CEO when the term of the Atlantia board expires in April 2019, Cerchiai said it would be up to shareholders to decide.

Ratings agency Fitch said in August the disaster could weigh on Atlantia’s financial profile and its shares have lost more than 27 percent of their value since part of the 50-year-old Morandi bridge collapsed on Aug. 14.

“Atlantia is fully committed to the deal and the funds required are also committed,” Portuguese brokerage firm BPI said after meeting ACS executives, adding that it expects the Abertis tie-up to be completed by mid-October.

The Spanish government still needs to sign off the deal.

Reporting by Paul Day and Andres Gonzalez; Editing by Jesús Aguado and Alexander Smith