Hochtief Launches EUR17.10 Billion Counterbid for Spain's Abertis

By Nathan Allen Features Dow Jones Newswires

Hochtief AG (HOT.XE) on Wednesday said that it has offered 17.10 billion euros ($20.12 billion) for toll-road operator Abertis Infraestructuras SA (ABE.MC), outbidding a previous offer from Italy's Atlantia SpA (ATL.MI).

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The German construction company, which is controlled by Spain's Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA (ACS.MC), has offered Abertis shareholders the option of cash and new shares. Existing Abertis shareholders can take a cash payout of EUR18.76 per share, or 0.1281 of a new share in Hochtief, or a combination of the two.

The offer rivals a EUR16.50 per share bid submitted by Italian highway operator Atlantia in May. Atlantia's bid received approval from the Spanish market regulator and the European Commission earlier this month.

Abertis shares were trading at EUR17.70 until they were suspended by the Spanish market regulator this afternoon. Abertis shares resumed trading at 1400 GMT.

The Hochtief offer is backed by a consortium of international banks led by JPMorgan Chase & Co.(JPM).

With a market capitalization of EUR9.49 billion, Hochtief is considerably smaller than Abertis, which has a market capitalization of EUR16.88 billion, and far smaller than Atlantia, which is valued at EUR22.49 billion.

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Last week British activist hedge fund TCI Fund Management increased its stake in Abertis to around 2.7% and said it strongly supports Atlantia's bid. Spanish conglomerate Grupo Villar Mir SAU, which owns around 1.7% of Abertis, has also backed Atlantia's bid.

However, several Spanish media outlets have reported that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is reluctant to let Abertis fall out of Spanish control and favors a local buyer.

Actividades de Construccion y Servicios was formed in 1997 through the merger of two smaller companies and is one of Spain's largest construction firms with operations in more than 50 countries and turnover of EUR31.98 billion in 2016.

Write to Nathan Allen at nathan.allen@dowjones.com

Germany's Hochtief AG on Wednesday made a EUR18.6 billion ($21.9 billion) offer to buy Abertis Infraestructuras SA. "Hochtief Launches EUR17.10 Billion Counterbid for Spain's Abertis," at 1406 GMT, misstated the total value of the deal in the headline and first paragraph. The initial value given excluded around EUR1.5 billion of Abertis treasury shares. The total value of the bid is EUR18.6 billion, not EUR17.1 billion.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 19, 2017 03:56 ET (07:56 GMT)