A consortium looking to acquire Spanish motorway operator Abertis in a leveraged buyout worth at least €25bn (£20.9bn) yesterday said it was considering several structures to finance its bid.
It is also understood that the bidding group hopes to sell stakes held by Abertis in two highway operators, Italy’s Atlantia and Portugal’s Brisa, that could lead to a special dividend of up to €1.2bn for Abertis shareholders and would help finance the acquisition – easily the biggest leveraged buyout deal since the financial crisis.
“The consortium is looking at a refocusing of the group and several structures to finance the bid are being looked at, but it has not been decided which assets will be sold, if any,” said the consortium, which includes Abertis’ core shareholders – ACS and Criteria – and private equity firm CVC Capital Partners.
Abertis, which also runs airports, telecoms and car parks and has a 32 per cent stake in French group Eutelsat, has 14.6 per cent of Brisa and 6.7 per cent of Atlantia – stakes which analysts have previously tipped as likely disposal candidates to fund the takeover. The consortium said it was trying to put together a financing plan that would keep Abertis’s debt at investment grade after the takeover. It confirmed it was in the process of raising a €5.3bn loan to back its bid.
Lenders are thought to be assuming a BB rating for Abertis, which is currently rated BBB+ by S&P and A- by Fitch. CVC, ACS and La Caixa’s Criteria plan to put debt and equity into an investment vehicle which will launch a takeover of Abertis. CVC is believed to be looking to put in at least €1bn in equity for the bid. “If you have just €5.3bn of debt, you are either going to have to put some more equity or lower the offer price,” an analyst at a leading European bank said.
ACS could use the takeover process to raise the €2bn it needs to realise its ambition of raising its 12 per cent stake in Spanish utility Iberdrola.