(Adds further context on the role in Telecom Italia)
Nov 2 (Reuters) – What do a bid for Italy’s largest motorway operator involving Macquarie and Blackstone and a hedge fund’s campaign for board seats in the country’s largest telecommunications group have in common? The answer is Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) present in both.
The 170-year-old Italian lender and investor, led by CEO Fabrizio Palermo, has played an increasingly active role at Italy Inc in recent years to keep strategic resources in national hands and mitigate the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic.
Today it has 35 billion euros (40.8 billion dollars) invested in funds and companies ranging from the oil giant Eni to the plasma derivatives specialist Kedrion, a figure set to increase in the coming months.
And the icing on the cake is that its debt is not registered as part of Italy’s gigantic public debt.
Here is an overview of the latest operations mediated by CDP which invests the savings made by Italians through the national network of Poste Italiane.
A CDP-led consortium involving the Macquarie and Blackstone investment funds is in talks with the Italian infrastructure group Atlantia to purchase its 88% stake in the Autostrade per l’Italia motorway unit in an agreement that could be worth 9 billion euros. EUR. CDP could end up with 40% of the bidding company.
If CDP is successful, more than 3,000 km of motorways will return to effective state control, drawing a line in the bitter dispute between Atlantia and the government that has its roots in the deadly collapse of the Genoa bridge in 2018.
In the coming months, CDP will become a major shareholder of the French stock exchange operator Euronext and a key investor in the Milanese stock exchange group, which operates both the Italian stock market and the MTS government bond platform.
With 7.3% of Euronext, CDP will have the same stake as its French counterpart Caisse des Depots.
CDP partnered with Euronext and the largest Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo to agree to buy Borsa Italiana from the London Stock Exchange in a € 4.3 billion deal last month.
CDP devised a merger between Italy’s Nexi and smaller rival SIA to create a dominant domestic payments group. Nexi is now in exclusive talks to buy Nordic rival Nets.
Prior to a potential deal with Nets, CDP was expected to own a quarter of Nexi-SIA, making it the single largest investor, followed by the private equity owners of Nexi Advent, Bain Capital and Clessidra. CDP invested 240 million euros to obtain almost 50% of SIA.
TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND BROADBAND
CDP has built a 10% stake in the country’s former telephony monopoly Telecom Italia, which is worth € 630 million at current market prices, to offset the influence of the French media group Vivendi, which is the largest shareholder of a company deemed strategic.
In an effort to reduce Vivendi’s hold on the Italian telephone group, CDP sided with US activist fund Elliott at a key shareholder meeting to appoint a new board of directors in 2018.
CDP intends to create a unified national operator by combining Telecom Italia’s network assets with those of its smaller rival Open Fiber, a broadband network operator in which CDP has invested 360 million euros for a 50% stake.
The state-owned lender would be a prominent shareholder in any new network sample designed to provide businesses and homes with fast connections and bridge Italy’s digital divide. CDP will have supervisory powers over strategic matters concerning the new network operator.
As part of the “Progetto Italia”, CDP joined forces with construction company Webuild to orchestrate a joint bailout of smaller rival Astaldi to create a national force and revive the country’s sickly construction industry.
CDP has subscribed to a € 250 million capital increase in Webuild to obtain an 18.7% stake in the group. ($ 1 = 0.8583 euros) (Reported by Francesca Landini, Stephen Jewkes, Elvira Pollina, Valentina Za Editing by Keith Weir)