ACS looks to Italy to start its transformation | Business

On Wednesday, while Florentino Pérez enjoyed Karim Benzema’s goals at Stamford Brigde (Chelsea’s stadium in London), it emerged that ACS, the company founded and chaired by the businessman, had embarked on an operation together with the GIP funds and Brookfield to control Atlantia, its partner in Abertis (50% minus one share, on the Spanish side, and 50% plus one share, on the Italian side). ACS, as the group acknowledged to the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV) in a relevant fact, “has an exclusive agreement” with these two large international investment funds “by which it would end up buying the majority of the highway concession business , without having made a decision on the matter to date”.

The next day, with the echo of Real Madrid’s good game in the media, it was learned that another US fund, Blackstone, is also bidding for the signing of the Benetton family, the largest shareholder with 33.1% through the Edizione equity , with which it is holding talks, but without having reached “yet any agreement”. The Benettons described the other offer as “unsolicited” and communicated that they want to maintain the Italian roots, in addition to “continuing to contribute to the sustainable development of its value”.

That is to say, everything is up in the air and indicates that a takeover war has broken out after things rushed, surely due to self-interested leaks that have not been very funny to the protagonists, but that have forced them to portray themselves before the regulatory authorities of Spain and Italy. What is clear is that, if successful, on one side or another, the operation would be one of the loudest in recent times. Atlantia currently has a market capitalization that exceeds 15,000 million euros, to which should be added the debt it carries for more than 30,000 million.

Florentino Pérez has just around the corner (on May 6) the general meeting in which he will be able to explain to the shareholders the pretensions and the scope of the operation. For the Spanish multinational, the main interest of the Atlantia operation lies in the fact that it would mean taking a giant step in the concessions and highways sector, reaching revenues of over 30,000 million. It is interested in the highways and not the airports and railway assets of Atlantia, as was already reflected last year after failing the purchase offer for Autostrade, which was acquired by a consortium led by the Italian State to stop any interference. By geographical area, the company plans to grow in the US and Latin America and consolidate in Australia.

The meeting is the time to value the actions carried out last year and the growth and transformation plans, which include growing in concessions and renewable businesses and reorganizing the rest of the activities, such as traditional construction, the embryo of the group created by Pérez . At the moment it has the 4,900 million euros obtained from the sale of Cobra to the French group Vinci, which allowed it to launch the takeover bid for 21.4% of the Australian subsidiary Cimic through the German Hochtief with the aim of excluding it from the Stock Market ; reduce debt to practically zero and reinforce the muscle to be able to face operations such as this possible purchase of the Atlantia concessions business. Precisely with Vinci, with which it rivals in civil works, it shares interests in renewables that could crystallize in agreements to make joint investments.

The sale of the industrial services subsidiary was the starting point of the industrial plan, which will be handled by Juan Santamaría, whose appointment as CEO will be proposed to the shareholders at the aforementioned meeting. Santamaría, a civil engineer like Pérez, is a man of the house, where he began directing precisely the concessions in Florida (USA), which allowed him to get to know the business and gain experience in the relationship with investment banking. In addition to his time in the US, he directed Iridium (a subsidiary of ACS), and developed at Cimic. The task in this firm, which he straightened out after suffering a disaster of 1,800 million Australian dollars, was valued very positively by the president to give him the executive command to replace Marcelino Fernández Verdes. In addition to Santamaría, María José García Beato, State lawyer, former General Secretary of Banco Sabadell and former Undersecretary of the Ministry of Justice during the Aznar government, will join the board. They will occupy the positions of Agustín Batuecas and Joan David Grimá, two historical figures in the highest administrative body of the group. The company will have a board of 15 members.

He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.


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