* Earnings rise, miss forecasts by a whisker
* CFO says received no concrete takeover bid
* Higher traffic, foreign assets boost revenue
(updates with conference call, analyst comment)
By Isla Binnie and Robert Hetz
MADRID, April 26 Spanish infrastructure group
Abertis reported rising earnings on Wednesday and said
it had received no concrete offer from Italian rival Atlantia
after the companies held preliminary talks on a
Toll-road operator Atlantia said last week it was interested
in acquiring Abertis, a move which would create an industry
giant with a total market value of around 35 billion euros ($38
Higher traffic across Abertis's 14-country network and new
concessions in Italy and India helped boost core earnings
(EBITDA) in the first quarter by 13 percent to 807 million
A Reuters poll had shown EBITDA was expected to rise to 815
million euros, but UBS analysts said in a note that the stock
was more sensitive to news of any takeover deal.
Chief Financial Officer Jose Aljaro said Abertis had
received no concrete offer from Atlantia, which is 30 percent
controlled by the Benetton family.
"No possible valuation has been specified, nor has any
transaction price or other condition been set," Aljaro said,
adding Abertis was a "a passive subject" and did not know
whether a transaction would be completed.
Abertis said last week that Atlantia had "shared its
preliminary ideas on the structure of a potential corporate
transaction" at a meeting between the two companies.
Atlantia CEO Giovanni Castellucci has said the company is
only interested in a friendly deal with Abertis, involving the
Spanish group's top shareholder La Caixa.
A deal between the two similarly-sized companies, whose
previous merger attempt in 2006 was scuppered by the Italian
government, would bring more than 13,000 kms (8,000 miles) of
motorway under joint control.
Barcelona-based Abertis faces a series of concession
expiries in Spain, where it manages more than 60 percent of the
toll road network, obliging it to look for new areas to invest.
It is already buying up assets abroad, and took full control
of France's Sanef in April. Atlantia meanwhile wants to boost
the share of core earnings it makes from overseas business to 50
percent from its current 25 percent by 2020.
If it merged with Abertis, the combined group would generate
around 60 percent of core profits outside Italy.
"We think the synergies are evident in the motorway
business" in countries like Chile, Brazil and Italy, where cost
savings could be made by sharing infrastructure, Banco Sabadell
analysts said in a note.
"On a purely industrial level, the key to the merger is
scale for new investments" and the merged companies would have
more clout in negotiating with governments, the note said.
Traffic on Atlantia's Italian motorway routes, which
generate around 70 percent of the company's revenue, rose 3.2
percent last year.
Abertis said traffic on its total network rose 2.3 percent
in the first quarter and by more than 6 percent in both Spain
and Chile. It said on Wednesday its Brazilian arm Arteris won a
30-year concession worth over 400 million euros.
"We keep a positive view on the stock, supported by a stable
dividend policy, capacity to generate cash and wide geographical
diversification, as well as its intense M&A activity in recent
months," analysts at investment firm Renta4Banco said in a note.
Favourable currency moves in Brazil and Chile also boosted
revenue, Abertis said.
Shares in Abertis were down 0.03 percent on the day, trading
at 16 euros each on the Madrid bourse at 1635 GMT.
($1 = 0.9200 euros)
(Reporting by Isla Binnie and Robert Hetz in Madrid; Additional
reporting by Gdynia Newsroom; Editing by Greg Mahlich and Adrian