MILAN (Reuters) – Shares in Atlantia ATL.MI rose more than 10% on Wednesday after it entered exclusive talks with Italian state lender CDP over the sale of its motorway assets in a sign that a solution to a long-drawn out dispute with Rome could be near.
The stock was also boosted by source-based reports in dailies La Repubblica and Il Messaggero that CDP had teamed up with private equity firm Blackstone BX.N and infrastructure fund Macquarie to prepare a bid for Atlantia’s 88% stake in Autostrade per l’Italia (ASPI).
Atlantia said on Tuesday it had entered exclusive talks with CDP until Oct. 18, adding it was open to considering a potential offer from CDP and other investors for the Autostrade stake.
Atlantia’s shares were up 10.2% by 0810 GMT.
“An agreement with CDP for the sale of ASPI would eliminate the political risk, solve the debt problem in the holding company …, accelerate the return to an investment grade rating of the group and ensure financial flexibility to Atlantia,” broker Equita said in a note.
CDP, Blackstone, Macquarie could not immediately be reached for a comment on the newspaper reports.
A source close to the deal said talks between CDP and Atlantia were at an early stage and while there were discussions with other potential investors, no joint bid was yet on the table.
Atlantia has been embroiled in a legal dispute with the Italian government since 2018 when a bridge run by Autostrade collapsed, killing 43 people. The government has threatened to strip Autostrade of its motorway licence.
The two parties had moved closer to an deal in July, when Rome approved a plan that would see Atlantia cede control of Autostrade to CDP, but talks had since stalled due to disagreements over how to implement it.
According to Il Messaggero, an offer from the CDP-led consortium could be presented as soon as Oct. 18, a day before Atlantia holds a board meeting, and could be worth 8 billion to 10 billion euros.
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