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Blackstone & Benetton Bid For Italy’s Atlantia For €54B

 |  April 14, 2022

Italy’s Benetton family, one of the richest and most influential business dynasties in Europe, and US investment fund Blackstone have proposed a 58 billion euro ($63 billion) buyout offer for Atlantia to take it private and stave off rival interest for the airport and motorway operator.

Highlighting the appeal of the infrastructure sector, the deal would be this year’s second-biggest M&A transaction globally after Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The company, which manages around 3,000 km of Italy’s motorway network, operates some of the country’s most profitable – and congested – stretches of road.

Alessandro Benetton, chairman of the family holding company Edizione since January, said one of the aims was to preserve the integrity of Atlantia and its Italian identity, adding they had found in Blackstone a long-term co-investor and partner.

The bid heralds a new phase for Atlantia which is selling its domestic motorway unit to draw a line under a political dispute sparked by a deadly bridge collapse in 2018.

The Ponte Morandi bridge, in the Italian city of Genoa, made international headlines in August 2018 after a spectacular collapse that cost the lives of over 40 people and flattened dozens of homes. The tragedy sparked criminal investigations against the operator, leading to the arrest of Atlantia’s CEO, Giovanni Castellucci.

The sale, which will cut Atlantia’s end-2021 debt of 38.6 billion euros, will bring 8 billion euros into its coffers. Net of debt the offer values the group at 19 billion euros.

“The gargantuan Benetton and Blackstone-led Atlantia deal redefines how investors will think about infrastructure investments due to its sheer size alone,” said Wylie Fernyhough, senior private equity analyst at PitchBook.

The Benettons and Blackstone said on Thursday they would offer 23 euros per share, a premium of 24.4% to the share price on April 5, before speculation about the offer fuelled gains.

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