Atlantia and ACS have both separately stated that they are in talks over their competing bids for Spanish toll road company Abertis, submitted in May and October 2017, respectively. ACS bid to take over the company through its German subsidiary Hochtief.
Abertis manages more than 8,300 kilometers of toll roads across 15 countries in Europe, the Americas and Asia. Between 2015 and 2017 it implemented a strategic plan that involved over EUR7 billion investments and over EUR2.1 billion paid out as dividends. It has already committed EUR4 billion to investments in the 2018-2020 period (excluding M&A deals).
Atlantia offered EUR16.5 for each Abertis share acquired. Hochtief topped this with a bid of EUR18.76 in cash per share. The total values of the offers are EUR16.3 billion and EUR18.3 billion, respectively.
Hochtief’s offer has not yet been cleared by the Spanish market regulator, but is expected to be in the near future. Hochtief and Atlantia’s bids will then run in parallel for one month during which both groups will be able to improve their proposals. Atlantia's offer was cleared and approved by the Spanish government in January.
With such a desirable portfolio at stake, clearance for ACS-Hochtief could spark a costly bidding war. The confirmation of talks indicates that both bidders are keen to avoid this.
Reuters has reported that Atlantia and ACS are negotiating a division of Abertis' assets between them, through Atlantia withdrawing its offer. The resultant agreement would give Atlantia ownership of the Italian, French and some Latin American assets in Abertis' portfolio, leaving ACS with the remaining assets in Latin America and all of the company's assets in Spain.
This would leave the Spanish roads operated by Abertis in Spanish hands. However it remains unclear if either bidder has a preference for Abertis' assets in the UK, USA, Canada and India - all important global markets.
Local press has reported that these talks have been ongoing for months, which is plausible given the scale of the deal concerned. However, given that neither Atlantia or ACS has mentioned the division of assets, it remains to be seen whether an expensive bidding war will successfully be avoided.