December 17, 2019 / 6:52 AM / 2 months ago

Benetton holding eyes sale of 49% stake in Rome airport group: sources

MILAN (Reuters) - The Benetton family’s holding company Edizione is ready to sell a stake of up to 49% in Rome airport operator Aeroporti di Roma (ADR) as part of an overhaul of infrastructure group Atlantia (ATL.MI), three sources close to the matter said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: A logo of the Atlantia Group is seen outside their headquarters in Rome, Italy August 31, 2018. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo

But the sources said no sale was imminent, adding that the group had not picked any adviser yet for the transaction.

ADR could have an equity value of around 5 billion euros ($5.5 billion), according to a recent report by JP Morgan.

The planned sale comes amid a shake-up at Atlantia, in which the Benetton family is the largest shareholder, following last year’s deadly collapse of a bridge in Genoa operated by the group’s tollway unit Autostrade per l’Italia.

Following the disaster in Genoa, which killed 43 people, Italian ruling coalition party 5-Star Movement criticized Atlantia and the Benetton family, demanding that Autostrade be stripped of its motorway concession.

Autostrade, Atlantia’s road maintenance unit SPEA and dozens of former and current employees at the three companies are under investigation in three probes stemming from the Genoa bridge disaster.

The Benetton family, which controls Atlantia with a stake of 30%, plans to give more power to managers of the single units, leaving the group with a coordination role, the sources said.

The infrastructure group is likely to appoint two chief executives, one dedicated to the Italian assets and another for the foreign businesses, replacing long-serving CEO Giovanni Castellucci who left in September, two other sources said.

TELEPASS SALE TO RESUME

At 1228 GMT, shares in Atlantia were up 2.2%. A trader said the stock was also helped by reports that the government was leaning towards holding talks with the infrastructure group rather than revoking its motorway concession.

Autostrade’s concession to operate more than 3,000 km of Italian motorways accounts for one third of Atlantia’s core profits. Uncertainty over what steps will be taken by the fractious ruling coalition, which includes the center-left Democratic Party, has weighed on the group’s shares.

Revoking the concession could lead to a lengthy legal battle and potentially require the government to pay Atlantia billions of euros in compensation.

Two of the sources said Atlantia aimed to resume the sale of a stake in digital payments services unit Telepass, which was put on hold following Castellucci’s exit.

Telepass has an equity value of 1.5 billion euros, according to JP Morgan.

News of the planned sales was first reported by Il Sole 24 ore on Tuesday. Spokespeople for the companies involved declined to comment.

Additional reporting by Stephen Jewkes and Stefano Rebaudo; Writing by Francesca Landini; Editing by Edmund Blair

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