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Exclusive-Atlantia considers Hochtief stake non-strategic and may sell it -sources

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·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: General view of an infrastructure group Atlantia's headquarters, in Rome
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By Francesca Landini and Stephen Jewkes

MILAN (Reuters) -Italy's Atlantia considers its 16% stake in German builder Hochtief non-strategic and may sell it in the future as it gears up to rejig its investment portfolio after agreeing to sell its Italian motorway unit, three sources said.

"The Hochtief stake is not strategic .. and the group is considering getting out of the construction business in the future," one of the sources said.

No final decision has been taken on the potential sale of Hochtief's stake and there is no urgency, another source said.

"At the moment there are no plans to sell Atlantia's stake in Hochtief and any future decision would take into account potential developments in partnerships and joint ventures with Hochtief, Abertis and Atlantia on new motorway projects," a source at Atlantia said.

Hochtief declined to comment on the issue.

Hochtief shares ended the day down 2.9% after earlier falling more than 4%.

Atlantia, which acquired 23.9% of Hochtief in 2018 as part of a deal to take over Spanish toll road operator Abertis together with Spain's ACS, currently owns a 15.9% stake, which at present market values is worth around 750 million euros ($887 million).

The Italian group is the second biggest investor in the German group behind Spanish partner ACS, which owns 50.4%.

The investment was initially aimed at developing green-field construction projects, but Abertis then opted to go down a different path, with acquisitions of motorway assets including a deal in 2020 to buy U.S. tunnel operator Elizabeth River Crossing.

Atlantia, controlled by the Benetton family, is currently considering options after agreeing to sell its Italian motorway business to a consortium led by state lender CDP earlier this year following a deadly bridge collapse three years ago.

The group, which will raise some 8 billion euros in cash from the CDP deal, is working with McKinsey to identify a set of strategic options by the end of the year, one of the sources said.

The sources said the group was looking to expand its digital payments unit Telepass, perhaps through acquisitions in Europe, and could also consider developing a network of small airports linked to the leisure business.

Last year Atlantia agreed to sell a 49% stake in Telepass for more than 1 billion euros to transform the unit into a pan-European multi-service platform for consumers and businesses.

The group is also looking into new investments in motorway assets and could venture into sustainability-linked businesses such as renewable energy and sustainable mobility projects, the sources said.

($1 = 0.8460 euros)

(Reporting by Francesca Landini and Stephen Jewkes; additional reporting by Matthias Inverardi in Duesseldorf; editing by Jason Neely)

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