Race for Abertis heats up as ACS mulls offer

A move by the Spanish developer could involve pension funds from Canada and Australia.

After appearing to be in the clear to seal a €16.3 billion deal to buy Spain-based Abertis, Italian toll road and airport operator Atlantia is facing increased competition.

ACS, the Spanish construction giant, is the latest to declare its interest, informing the market of its deliberations over a bid which it maintains has not yet been submitted. The move follows compatriot Aena’s admission that it had considered an offer last week that was subsequently vetoed by the Spanish government, its majority shareholder.

Aena’s bid aside, the Spanish government has largely stayed silent on the matter, although, following ACS’s revelation of interest, a spokesman for the authorities said it is monitoring the situation and “is waiting for the announcements to be translated into fact”.

While it maintained the situation is one for the private sector, the government will eventually be forced into a decision of some sort given its 9 percent ownership of satellite operator Hispasat, 57 percent-owned by Abertis and used for both commercial and military purposes.

A report from The New York Times suggested ACS is in negotiations with pension funds in Canada and Australia over support for its bid. Previous ventures have seen ACS team up with the likes of Global Infrastructure Partners, InfraRed and TIAA. ACS declined to comment.

The company reported a latest EBITDA figure of more than €2 billion in May. At the time, chairman Florentino Perez remarked that the company has the capacity “to take on any project, in any place and at any time”, reporting a “notable investment capacity” to support global growth.

An investment in Abertis would not be uncharted waters for ACS. The company was previously a 25 percent shareholder before selling a 15 percent stake to CVC for €1.7 billion in August 2010. It sold the remainder to OHL in 2012 for €875.3 million.