(Bloomberg) -- An Italian construction magnate is considering a takeover bid for Autostrade per l’Italia SpA that could value the highway operator at about €20 billion ($21 billion) including debt, people with knowledge of the matter said.
Closely held Fininc SpA, founded by 82-year-old Matterino Dogliani, is working with advisers on a potential bid for a controlling stake in Autostrade, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.
The deliberations come over a year after a group including Italian state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti SpA, along with Blackstone Inc. and Macquarie Group Ltd., completed the purchase of the highway operator from the billionaire Benetton family.
The media-shy Dogliani is teaming up with an international investment firm on a possible friendly offer of about €8 billion for Autostrade, the people said. Including debt, the deal could be valued at around €20 billion, making it one of the biggest merger and acquisition deals in Italy in the last decade.
If presented, the offer would be backed by Infrastructure Minister and Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini, according to an official familiar with his thinking. Salvini would look favorably on a plan with funding from an Italian entrepreneur for the country’s highway network, which has been at the center of political clashes for years, the official said.
No final decisions have been made, and there’s no certainty the deliberations will lead to a transaction, the people said.
Spokespeople for Blackstone, Cassa Depositi (also known as CDP), Fininc and Macquarie declined to comment. A representative for Autostrade said the company isn’t currently aware of such a deal.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni isn’t aware of the plan and hasn’t expressed support for it, an official in her office said. Other senior government officials have been briefed on the proposed bid, according to people familiar with the matter.
Autostrade, which operates an Italian network covering about 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles) of highways, has been a political football ever since 43 people died in the 2018 Morandi bridge collapse in Genoa on a stretch of road managed by the company.
The Benettons ultimately sold the business under pressure to a state-backed consortium, following repeated attempts by then-Premier Giuseppe Conte’s cabinet to withdraw the company’s concession. The CDP grouping agreed to a five-year lockup period on their investment, which could be a hurdle to a deal.
In any potential transaction with Fininc, CDP may retain a minority stake in Autostrade to give the government future oversight over the company, the people said. CDP currently owns 51% of a holding company controlling an 88% stake in Autostrade, while Blackstone and Macquarie each own 24.5% of the investment vehicle, according to the Italian company’s website.
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Dogliani’s family founded Turin-based Fininc in the 1960s. The group, which is still wholly owned by the family, focuses mostly on toll road construction across the world as well as civil engineering and industrial plants. It also has interests in a range of other industries from automation and cybersecurity to wine production.
Fininc is known for the construction of the Frejus highway linking Italy to France, as well as the Pedemontana Veneta roadway near Venice. In southern Italy, it built part of the Salerno-Reggio Calabria highway. The company employs more than 1,500 people, according to its website.
Autostrade reported about €4.2 billion of operating revenue last year and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of €2.46 billion.
--With assistance from Chiara Albanese.
(Updates with deputy premier’s support from fifth paragraph.)
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