Atlantia plots ‘foot in the door’ foreign expansion

The €10bn listed Italian toll road operator has made investments in Chile, Brazil and India amounting to more than 800km of road during 2009. It will only accelerate its overseas investment activity, however, when it has ‘greater financial flexibility', says chief executive officer Giovanni Castellucci.

Italian toll road operator Atlantia is “creating a basis for substantial international diversification”, chief executive officer Giovanni Castellucci said at a press conference in London yesterday.

During 2009, Atalantia invested in projects in Chile, Brazil and India, amounting to more than 800 kilometres of toll road. Castellucci stressed that despite the firm’s international ventures, Italy was still its first priority.

Italy: top priority

“We are starting to have quite a visible presence outside Italy, although the money invested is still quite limited,” he said. He described the current investments as getting a “foot in the door” in growth markets where the firm will at some stage – when it has greater “financial flexibility” – make larger investments.

Atlantia is currently effecting an €18 billion Italian investment programme to “de-bottleneck” 900 kilometres – around a third – of its domestic road network.

Last week the company reported a decline of 7.6 percent in net profit for the first nine months of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008 from €630 million to €581.9 million. Operating profit, however, increased during the same time frame by 1.4 percent to €1.7 billion.

Atlantia is listed on the Italian stock exchange and has a market cap of more than €10 billion. Its shares have gained slightly this week, rising around 2 percent to €18.17.