(Adds comments from sources)
MILAN, Feb 22 (Reuters) – Shares in ASTM jumped 27% on Monday after the Italian motorway group’s top investor made a $2 billion offer for the stock it does not already own, believing it can overhaul the company more easily in private hands.
The approach follows similar moves this year in Italy at coffee producer Zanetti and packaging equipment firm IMA as investors take advantage of record low interest rates.
Nuova Argo Finanziaria (NAF), which holds a 42% stake in ASTM, said at the weekend it would offer 25.60 euros a share through a new vehicle to buy out minority investors for an outlay of up to 1.7 billion euros ($2 billion).
The price is 28.8% above ASTM’s closing price on Friday.
A drop in motorway traffic caused by the pandemic had driven ASTM shares down to Friday’s close of around 20 euros from 25 euros a year ago, just before COVID-19 contagion hit Italy.
A Milan-based trader said NAF was looking to take advantage of the depressed share price.
NAF said it planned to revamp the business, adding that would be easier if the company was not listed.
Italy’s Gavio family is the main investor in NAF with a roughly 60% stake alongside the infrastructure arm of French private equity firm Ardian.
Ardian agreed to invest in ASTM just a few days before a motorway bridge operated by toll-road firm Atlantia collapsed in August 2018, killing 43 people.
In response to the tragedy, Italy’s government has tightened oversight of the concession system and embarked on a legal dispute with Atlantia, plunging the sector into uncertainty.
Two people close to the matter said ASTM was not fairly valued on the market due to COVID-19 and the knock-on effects of Atlantia’s troubles.
NAF said it had secured financing for its offer and to refinance part of ASTM’s debt, with JPMorgan as the sole underwriter.
JPMorgan Securities is sole financial adviser to NAF and Milan-based law firm Chiomenti is its legal adviser.
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