The European Commission said on August 8 it would look into the Italian government’s move to block a proposed merger between the Italian highway operator Autostrade and the Spanish infrastructure company Abertis. The Italian government and highways regulator rejected the proposed merger, worth nearly 12 billion euros ($15 billion). The deal created the world’s largest highway company, operating in 16 countries with a road network of 6,713 kilometers (4,171 miles).
Italian Economy Minister Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa and Infrastructure Minister Antonio Di Pietro were concerned about possible conflicts of interest because of Abertis shareholders in the construction and transportation field, according to the statement from the two ministries. Both Autostrade and Abertis shareholders approved the deal, which was announced in April and required government and European Union approval.
The European Commission was waiting for notification from the Italian government of its reasons for blocking the proposed merger between Abertis Infraestructures SA and Autostrade SpA. The deal would have created a company with more than $7.5 billion in annual revenue. Although a merger, the proposed deal suggested a takeover of Autostrade by Abertis because the new company was to be based in Barcelona, Spain, carry the Abertis name and be run by the Abertis chief executive.
The Italian government, as well as transport regulator Anas, sought assurances that the new company would invest significantly in Italian roads, and that tolls collected on the Italian government concession would not be used to fund expansion in other countries. Consumer groups praised the ministers’ decision. Unions had worried about job losses as a result of the merger.
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