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Atlantia's two key investors block extension of motorway spin-off plan

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Francesca Landini
FILE PHOTO: A logo of the Atlantia Group is seen outside its headquarters in Rome, Italy
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By Francesca Landini

MILAN (Reuters) - The Benetton family and Italian banking foundation CRT, two key investors in Atlantia, voted on Monday against extending a plan to spin off motorway unit Autostrade per l'Italia until the end of July, blocking the proposal.

Since pressing ahead with the spin-off is currently conditional on Atlantia receiving a new offer for its demerged motorway assets by Wednesday and there is no offer in sight, Monday's vote means the spin-off will likely be scrapped.

It also means that the Benettons and CRT prefer that the infrastructure group focus on ongoing talks to sell the unit to a consortium led by state lender CDP, as they suggested in a statement last week.

CDP, together with Macquarie and Blackstone, have been negotiating with Atlantia for the acquisition of its 88% stake in Autostrade since last year as the group tried to end a dispute triggered by the 2018 collapse of a bridge in Genoa run by the unit, which killed 43 people.

The Benettons hold 30% of Atlantia through their family holding Edizione, while CTR owns nearly 5% of the group.

Atlantia said in a statement that two investors representing 48.06% of the 72.32% of the share capital attending the EGM voted against the proposal, blocking its approval.

"The proposed resolution did not reach the quorum required by law for EGM, equal to two-thirds of the capital represented," Atlantia said, adding 1,167 shareholders equal to 51.80% of the capital represented at the EGM voted in favour of the extension, with the remainder abstaining.

Monday's vote exposes a rift among Atlantia's investors and raises question marks over whether the backing of the Benetton family and CRT would be enough to approve the new binding offer expected by the consortium at a future shareholders' meeting.

Spinecap fund, a small investor in Atlantia, said that Edizione was backtracking on a previous decision to support the spin-off, in parallel with talks with CDP.

"Edizione has torpedoed the dual-track process it previously supported. By pushing its own agenda, Edizione is sacrificing other Atlantia minority shareholders' right for a fair market process and a fair price," said Spinecap in an emailed comment to Reuters.

The CDP-led consortium, which was expected to submit a revised offer for Atlantia's stake in Autostrade last weekend, said late on Sunday that work on a final bid was still ongoing.

($1 = 0.8490 euros)

(Additional reporting by Elvira Pollina; Editing by Susan Fenton and Steve Orlofsky)