Abertis restructuring opens door to asset sales

The company is studying the possibility of grouping its parking and logistics operations in a single, unlisted unit – Saba Infraestructuras - which could then be sold to institutional investors.

Spanish developer Abertis announced today that it is considering restructuring its five main businesses into two different companies, one of which would be opened, perhaps in its entirety, to outside institutional investors.
The company said it would group its toll roads, airports and telecommunications operations, which earn the vast majority of its revenues, under the Abertis umbrella, but would potentially spin off its parking and logistics businesses to a new, unlisted company named Saba Infraestructuras. The assets to be shifted to Saba account for 4.6 percent of Abertis’ €3.2 billion in revenues and some 3.5 percent of the firm’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA).
The restructuring would involve payment of an “extraordinary dividend to be received in the form of new Saba shares or in cash,” Abertis explained in a statement. This would allow existing Abertis shareholders to participate in the new venture, the firm added.
Abertis contemplates “initially remaining a shareholder” in Saba but indicated the new company would be opened up to “new institutional investors that would join those existing Abertis shareholders that might wish to buy into Saba”. It added new shareholders would be allowed to buy into Saba “relatively soon”.
Non-core asset sales at Abertis have been rumoured ever since private equity firm CVC Capital Partners acquired a 15.55 percent stake in the Spanish developer last year from main shareholder ACS for €1.7 billion. This was prompted, in part, by the short duration of the loan taken out to fund the deal.
“To take out a loan with a duration as short as one year is unusual and to us suggests that an extraordinary dividend could be planned, probably funded from asset sales,” Robert Crimes, an analyst with Credit Suisse, wrote in a research note last year.
Abertis recently concluded the sale of its 6.68 percent stake in Italian toll road operator Atlantia for €626 million. Abertis’ 14.6 percent stake in Portuguese toll road operator Brisa is also seen as a target for divestment.