Italy’s Atlantia, perhaps better known as highway operator Autostrade per l’Italia, is expected to imminently be making an offer to buy Spanish infrastructure business Abertis. One of the Abertis investments is a major 57 per cent stake in Spanish satellite operator Hispasat. The overall deal is reportedly worth more than €15 billion, and in the process, would create one of the world’s largest toll-road operators.
However, the other major shareholder in Hispasat is Eutelsat (33.69 per cent), and the relationship between Hispasat and Eutelsat has been somewhat strained following a July 2016 decision by Eutelsat to exercise a “PUT” option – agreed with Hispasat/Abertis back in 2008 – and to sell its stake in accordance with the 2008 agreement with an independent valuation of its shareholding.
In June 2016 Eutelsat said it would exercise the option this coming July as “the exercise of the ‘put’ represents a pre-agreed exception to a lock-up period extending to the end of July 2017,” according to a statement from Eutelsat at the time. Abertis responded by saying that the ‘Put’ option was not valid.
Eutelsat CEO Rudolphe Belmer, speaking to analysts in July 2016, said: “On Hispasat, we don’t have a clear view on the calendar, even though it’s very clear in the shareholder agreement we have with our partners in Hispasat. But for the moment, we cannot comment on specific dates [as to when we will] receive the payments from Abertis. We have initiated, as to the PUT process and together with the PUT process comes a process of valuation of the company, which takes some time. The duration of the process as described and signed in the shareholder agreements lasts around three months.”
A year ago, the Eutelsat stake was valued at some €400 million.
In March 2017, the Spanish financial newspaper El Pais reported that Eutelsat was going to sell its stake in Hispasat to Abertis.