ACS to exit Abertis as latter swoops into Brazil

ACS said today that it is in ‘advanced negotiations’ to sell its 10% stake in Abertis, valued at €920m, to the toll road developer and a ‘third party’. Abertis will pass part of the acquired shares to Spanish company OHL, in exchange for acquiring its Brazilian and Chilean toll roads portfolio.

Big changes are afoot at Spanish toll road developer Abertis as one of its historic shareholders prepares to exit the company, a new one is on the threshold of coming in, and the firm buys a portfolio of assets in Brazil and Chile that will, according to Abertis, turn it into the world’s biggest toll road operator.

In an announcement to the Spanish competition commission (CNMV), infrastructure group ACS said it is in “advanced negotiations” to sell its indirect 10 percent stake in Abertis to the toll road operator and an unnamed “third party”. ACS, which at one point owned close to 26 percent of Abertis, last year sold the majority of its stake in the toll road operator to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners in a €1.7 billion deal.

Given Abertis’ current market capitalisation, ACS’ 10 percent share in the firm is worth some €920 million. In a separate statement to the CNMV, Abertis said it has been authorised to buy up to 5.3 percent of the shares ACS is preparing to sell. The latter will then be used as currency in a landmark deal that will see Abertis enter the Brazilian toll road market.

Separately, Abertis will also bolster its Chilean roads portfolio by acquiring OHL's Chilean toll roads for some €200 million.

According to Abertis, the company has signed a “letter of intent” with Spanish developer OHL to acquire its entire Brazilian and Chilean toll roads portfolio, including nine concessions in Brazil spanning 3,227 kilometres (km) and three concessions in Chile running over 342km. 

Instead of paying OHL in cash for its Brazilian assets, Abertis will transfer 10 percent of its own shares to OHL and take over the debt of its toll roads portfolio. As mentioned above, half of the shares Abertis is preparing to transfer to OHL will be bought from ACS, with the remaining comprising shares acquired through previous stock buybacks. Abertis said it is not planning to issue new shares to help broker the OHL deal.

“The completion of this deal would be a milestone in Abertis’ history, giving it worldwide leadership in the toll road business, both in terms of kilometres operated – over 7,500km directly – and in revenue and EBIDTA [earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation],” chief executive Francisco Reynés said in a statement.

But Reynés also signalled the OHL deal is just a part of a growing international vision: “As we explained to our shareholders at the last general meeting, Abertis’ current strategy is based on a firm commitment to growth and internationalisation.”

Abertis’ toll roads portfolio performed strongly during the first quarter of this year, generating €695 million in revenue and €476 million in EBITDA. Those figures account respectively for 78 percent and 87 percent of Abertis’ total revenue and EBITDA.