By Pietro Lombardi 
 

Atlantia SpA wants to use a good chunk of the cash pile coming from the sale of its entire stake in toll-road operator Autostrade per L'Italia to boost shareholder remuneration via dividends and buybacks, and the market welcomed the plan.

The Italian infrastructure operator said Tuesday that, once the disposal is completed, it will have around 8 billion euros ($9.70 billion) in cash to reinvest. Up to a quarter could end up in shareholders' pockets through a buyback the company is considering, which should be between EUR1 billion and EUR2 billion. The group will also propose a new dividend policy at the April 2022 sharehodlers' meeting. The policy, which covers the years 2021 through 2023, should include a distribution of around EUR600 million in the first year, with annual increases of between 3% and 5%.

Atlantia shares got a boost from the plan, gaining 4.8% in late morning European trade.

The new Atlantia that will emerge from the sale of Autostrade per L'Italia is "a strategic investment holding company focusing on transport infrastructure and the global macrotrends that are transforming the way we move around," Chief Executive Carlo Bertazzo said. New technologies, digital solutions and sustainability will be key elements in its business, he added.

Part of the proceeds from the sale will be invested in developing its portfolio of existing assets, with an eye to potential opportunities in motorway and airport concessions, payment systems and mobility services. The funds will also go toward new areas of investment in transport and mobility infrastructure, as well as the creation of a venture capital fund.

The sale of its 88% stake in Autostrade per L'Italia marks a significant step for Atlantia, which has been involved in a tussle with the Italian government over the unit since the collapse of a bridge in Genoa killed 43 people in 2018. The bridge was managed by Autostrade per L'Italia.

Last week, Atlantia accepted an offer from a consortium led by Italian state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti.

 

Write to Pietro Lombardi at pietro.lombardi@wsj.com; @pietrolombard10

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 15, 2021 07:00 ET (11:00 GMT)

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