Brisa CEO wants smooth Abertis stake sale

Vasco de Mello, Brisa’s chief executive, said in a results presentation yesterday that Brisa has been in contact with Abertis regarding the latter’s plans to sell its 14.6% holding in Brisa. News of the possible sale first emerged in the context of a potential buyout of Abertis by its core shareholders and CVC Capital Partners.

Vasco de Mello, chief executive of Portuguese toll road operator Brisa, told analysts during a results presentation yesterday that Brisa has been talking with Abertis regarding the latter’s plans to divest its 14.6 percent stake in Brisa.

De Mello’s comments are the first official confirmation of one of the rumours surrounding a possible buyout of Abertis by core shareholders ACS, La Caixa and outsider CVC Capital Partners, the European private equity firm. Namely, that Abertis’ main shareholders are considering selling the company's minority stakes in Brisa and Italian roads operator Atlantia, in which they hold 6.7 percent, to help fund the buyout.

The Portuguese toll road operator’s chief executive said talks are centring on how to divest Abertis’ 14.6 percent holding as smoothly as possible, highlighting that it was in both companies’ interests for the divestment to be done in an organised fashion.

Asked if he had an interest in buying the stake, de Mello replied that Brisa is not planning any big investments in the future and that under Portuguese regulations Brisa is not allowed to buy stock from one specific shareholder.

Brisa has recently announced that it would sell its entire 16.35 percent stake in Brazilian roads operator CCR for some €1.2 billion – roughly 6.5 times more than the €185 million it spent acquiring the stake in 2001.

At yesterday’s presentation, de Mello said that the first part of that transaction – the sale of a six percent holding to CCR’s controlling shareholders – had been completed successfully on July 22. The remaining 10.35 percent will now be sold via a private placement following the necessary regulatory approvals, he added.

The chief executive also pointed out that Brisa’s corporate reorganisation is on track to be concluded during the last quarter of the year.

Under its new corporate structure, Brisa’s main concession, a road network across Portugal, will be placed in a separate vehicle. Following that, “solid investment grade credit ratings will be sought for Brisa Concession on a stand-alone basis through the ring fencing from the rest of the group,” Brisa had said in a previous statement. Its main concession has low capex requirements, low cost of debt, positive cash flows and “very comfortable liquidity headroom,” Brisa added.