Hochtief Launches $22 Billion Bid for Spain's Abertis -- Update

Germany's Hochtief AG on Wednesday made a EUR18.6 billion ($21.9 billion) offer to buy Abertis Infraestructuras SA, gatecrashing an effort by Italy's Atlantia SpA to acquire the Spanish toll-road operator.

Hochtief -- a builder of infrastructure in the U.S. and Europe, which is controlled by Spain's Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA -- is offering Abertis shareholders EUR18.76 a share in cash, or 0.1281 of a Hochtief share, or a mixture of both.

Barcelona-based Abertis, which operates toll roads in Europe and South America, didn't immediately comment on the bid. Abertis is also yet to pass judgement on a EUR16.50 a share bid from Italian highway operator Atlantia in May.

Atlantia didn't immediately comment Wednesday.

Abertis shares rose 6.7% in late European trading and Hochtief ticked up 1.3%, while Atlantia fell 1.4%.

A combination of Abertis and Atlantia was approved by the Spanish market regulator and European competition authorities earlier this month. It has also been publicly backed by two big Abertis shareholders -- British activist investor TCI Fund Management and Spanish conglomerate Grupo Villar Mir SAU.

However, reports in the Spanish media have suggested the government is reluctant to let Abertis fall out of Spanish control and favors a local buyer.

Given Hochtief is more than 70% owned by Spain's Actividades de Construccion y Servicios, or ACS, its bid could be favored.

ACS is one of Spain's largest construction firms with operations in more than 50 countries and revenue last year of EUR31.98 billion. It was formed in 1997 through the merger of two smaller firms and is run by Florentino Perez, who is also chairman of Spanish soccer giant Real Madrid.

Despite its heavyweight backing, the deal would be a big move for Hochtief, which with a market capitalization of EUR9.49 billion is considerably smaller than Abertis, which has a market value of EUR16.88 billion. It is also smaller than Atlantia, which is valued at EUR22.49 billion.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 18, 2017 11:55 ET (15:55 GMT)