Atlantia to reward investors after sealing Autostrade deal

MILAN (Reuters) -Italy’s Atlantia is considering a share buyback of up to 2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) and a dividend payout of 600 million euros next year after it agreed to part ways with motorway business Autostrade per l’Italia.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of an infrastructure group Atlantia is seen outside their headquarters, in Rome, Italy October 5, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo

The conglomerate controlled by the powerful Benetton family last week signed a deal with a consortium headed by Italian state lender CDP to sell its 88% stake in Autostrade.

The agreement will bring 8 billion euros into Atlantia’s coffers, ending a dispute prompted by the 2018 deadly collapse of a motorway bridge run by Autostrade.

The promise to pay dividends clarifies the group’s strategy after it said in March it would focus on cutting debt, which reached 41.9 billion euros in 2020.

Atlantia on Tuesday said it could grab opportunities to invest in motorway and airport concessions, mobility infrastructure and payment systems.

In addition, some of the proceeds from the Autostrade sale will go to reward investors.

The group is considering a share buyback of between 1 billion euros and 2 billion euros to be launched once the sale of Autostrade is completed, it said.

In a separate statement, the Benetton family, which owns 30% of Atlantia, said it would not tender its shares in a future buyback, preferring to retain its current stake.

Shares in the group rose 4.7% by 1046 GMT, outperforming a slightly negative Milan blue-chip index.

The dividend policy for the financial years from 2021 to 2023 envisages the distribution of about 600 million euros in the first year, with estimated annual growth of between 3% and 5% in future years, Atlantia said.

“The announcement of the dividend policy and the buyback are positive news,” said broker Bestinver, adding that it had upgraded the stock to “buy” from “hold”.

Atlantia will also create a corporate venture capital fund open to new partners, it said.

Completion of the Autostrade deal, which will bring half of the Italian motorway network back under state management, is expected between Nov. 30 and June 2022.

($1 = 0.8236 euros)

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