Billionaire Benettons Seek New Investments After Autostrade Sale

The billionaire Benetton family plans to use cash from the sale of its Italian toll-road unit to diversify and expand the business of infrastructure giant Atlantia SpA.

The company will seek international investment opportunities in highway and airport concessions, payment systems and mobility services, according to a statement Tuesday. Rome-based Atlantia also plans to pay a dividend beginning next year and will consider buying back shares.

Atlantia will finance its investment plan with the 8 billion euros ($9.7 billion) it’s set to receive after completing the sale of its Autostrade per l’Italia SpA unit. Atlantia shares rose as much as 5.8% in Milan after the statement.

The company also said it will create a global corporate venture capital fund, open to new partners, with “several million euros of capital available to invest” in seed capital and coaching to start-ups and in the mobility sector.

The Benettons’ Edizione Srl holding company supports Atlantia as a long-term investor and won’t take part in its buyback plan, the holding said in a separate statement.

Dividend, Buyback

Atlantia will distribute about 600 million euros to shareholders in 2022, with estimated 3%-5% annual growth in the following years. The holding company will also consider buybacks for as much as 2 billion euros.

Italy Highway Bridge Collapse

The Morandi bridge collapsed in Genoa, in 2018.

Photographer: Federico Bernini/Bloomberg

Last month investors at Atlantia backed the sale of Autostrade to an investor group led by Italy’s state-backed lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti SpA after years of skirmishing with the Italian government. Atlantia had been under fire ever since 43 people died in a 2018 bridge collapse in Genoa on roadway managed by Autostrade. The tragedy also led to billions of euros in legal claims.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and his populist coalition at the time threatened to revoke Autostrade’s toll contracts after a ministerial commission charged that the company had underestimated the deterioration of the structure.

(Updates with Edizione holding in fifth paragraph.)

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