MILAN (Reuters) – Shares in Italy’s Atlantia rose more than 3% on Friday after a report that leading investor Edizione and Blackstone could launch a bid for the Italian road and airport operator at around 24 euros per share around Easter.
Edizione, the Benetton family holding group which already holds a 33% stake in Atlantia, and Blackstone declined to comment on the report in daily Il Messaggero which cited banking sources directly involved in the matter.
A price of 24 euros would value the group as a whole at around 20 billion euros ($21.7 billion). Atlantia shares traded at 21 euros in Milan on Friday.
Edizione confirmed on Thursday discussions were under way with Blackstone Group for a deal that would strengthen their grip on Atlantia but added that no agreement had yet been reached.
The news of a potential Edizione move on Atlantia came out after a leak on a possible takeover offer for the Italian group pitched last week by Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) and Brookfield, which specialise in infrastructure investments.
The two funds had an agreement with Florentino Perez’s ACS for the Spanish construction company to acquire a majority stake in Atlantia’s toll road concessions if any offer was completed.
The Benetton family has told GIP and Brookfield it was not interested in the funds’ takeover approach for Atlantia which operates airports in Rome and southern France and motorways in Europe and Latin America.
According to Il Messaggero, Edizione and Blackstone initially planned a bid at 22 euros per share, but they may raise it to 24 euros per share after the stock jumped around 8.6% this week on the prospect of a takeover battle.
The report said a rival bid from the funds would have to be pitched at around 26 euros per share to have any chance of success.
Any deal involving Atlantia would require the blessing of the Italian government, which has veto “golden powers” over strategic assets such as the country’s airports.
“A hostile bid is unlikely to succeed, although we expect the speculative appeal to sustain the stock price in the short term,” analysts from Intesa Sanpaolo said in a research note.
GIP and Brookfield are working with Rothschild and another bank while Edizione and Blackstone have enlisted the help of Mediobanca, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Bank of America, two separate sources told Reuters on Thursday. ($1 = 0.9211 euros)
(Reporting by Gianluca Semeraro; editing by Agniezska Flak and Keith Weir)