(Adds CEO comments, details)
MILAN, March 10 (Reuters) - Italian toll road operator Atlantia expects to receive binding offers for a minority stake in its motorway unit Autostrade per l‘Italia (ASPI) by mid-April, its CEO said on Friday.
Atlantia has put on the block 15 percent of ASPI as a part of a broader strategy aimed at funding expansion abroad.
The sale process started last year but slowed down after a constitutional referendum in December prompted Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to resign, making international investors wary about possible political instability in Italy.
“After the referendum, we decided to give more time to investors and we think that time has been spent wisely,” CEO Giovanni Castellucci told analysts on a conference call on the group’s 2016 results. “Binding offers are expected between the end of the month and mid-April.”
Atlantia, which is the sole owner of ASPI, could bag around 2.5 billion euros ($2.7 billion) from the sale, analysts have calculated.
Castellucci said preliminary offers reflected the group’s initial price expectation without providing figures.
Atlantia is weighing different investment options as it presses ahead with its strategy to increase the share of core earnings generated abroad to 50 percent by 2020 from the current 25 percent.
When asked about the possible sale of Macquarie’s 36 percent stake in Brussels airport, Castellucci said the group could be interested in Belgium’s main hub, but added Atlantia wanted to buy controlling stakes in airports.
Atlantia does not see room at present to raise its 22 percent stake in Venice airport operator SAVE but is monitoring developments, Castellucci said.
He said the group had also presented a bid to buy a stake in a Mexican toll road operator and was awaiting the tender’s outcome.
On the disposal front, the CEO said the sale of a 15 percent stake in the French airport of Nice, which Atlantia is negotiating, could happen shortly.
The toll road operator reported a 3 percent rise in 2016 revenue to 5.48 billion euros, broadly in line with forecasts, helped by a 3.2 percent rise in traffic on its domestic motorway network.
Atlantia plans to raise its dividend to 0.97 euros per share from 0.88 euros the previous year.
$1 = 0.9362 euros Editing by Elaine Hardcastle