(Adds context, Atlantia bid for Abertis)
May 19 French satellite operator Eutelsat
has agreed to sell its 33.69 percent stake in Spanish
business Hispasat to majority shareholder Abertis for
302 million euros ($336 million).
Eutelsat started the process of selling its Hispasat stake
last July when it decided to exercise a put option granted by
Abertis in 2008. However, the parties took time to agree on the
price and timing of the sale.
After buying out the French group, Abertis could seek a
Spanish buyer of Hispasat, which is considered as a strategic
asset by the government in Madrid as it offers services for
national institutions including the defence ministry.
The Spanish government signaled that it will closely monitor
what will happen to Hispasat if Abertis is bought by Atlantia.
Italian group Atlantia has made a 16.3 billion euro bid
for Abertis which also operates toll roads.
For Eutelsat, a sale fits with its strategy of trying to
strengthen its balance sheet by selling non-core assets.
Under Chief Executive Rodolphe Belmer the company has
undertaken cost saving measures as it seeks to boost margins,
reduce debt and return to revenue growth by the 2018/2019 fiscal
"Eutelsat's balance sheet should now close the year
comfortably under-levered - before the put, we expect closing
leverage of 3.0 times; post the put that goes to 2.8 times,"
Jefferies analyst Giles Thorne said in a note.
Eutelsat is aiming for a net debt/EBITDA ratio below 3.3
times, according to guidance confirmed by the company earlier in
The transaction is expected to close in the second half of
2017, Eutelsat said in a statement.
Eutelsat shares were up 1 percent at 0850 GMT, while Abertis
shares were flat.
($1 = 0.8989 euros)
(Reporting by Alan Charlish and Robert Hetz; editing by Jason
Neely and Keith Weir)