UPDATED STORY: Alpha responds to Autogrill move

Gavin Lipsith

30-May-2007

Alpha denies prior knowledge of the move by Autogrill that could lead to a possible takeover attempt by the Italian conglomerate

Italian catering and retail conglomerate Autogrill has revealed it may make a cash offer to buy Alpha Airports Group after acquiring a big stake in the company earlier this morning. The Italian company bought just under 22m shares in the company at £0.95 a share.

Autogrill said that it is “reviewing its options including whether to make a cash offer for the entire issued and to be issued share capital of Alpha Airports”. It explained that the considerations are at a preliminary stage and said it is not certain that an offer would be made, adding that a further announcement would be made when appropriate.

Alpha has responded minimally to the announcement, noting the purchase and Autogrill's deliberations, but indicating that it had not been aware of the move. In a statement Alpha said: "The board is consulting with its advisers and, as at the time of this announcement, has not entered into any discussions with Autogrill in respect of their future intentions. The board will make a further comment when appropriate."

Some sources believe that Autogrill could have acquired its stake from Schroder Investment Management, one of three key stakeholders in Alpha. Schroder hold, or held, a stake of just over 13% in the company and, as a non-trade stakeholder, is likely to have been tempted by the substantial premium offered to the market price offered by Autogrill. 

Autogrill owns 50% of Spanish retailer Aldeasa, with the other half held by tobacco supplier Altadis.

Keep an eye on RavenFox.com for more developments as they happen.

Editor's comment: This news prolongs one of the most dramatic periods in Alpha's history, starting with its share suspension last May and followed by the appointment of new CEO Peter Williams and an entirely new board of directors. The company seems to have fresh impetus now, securing big retail deals at Manchester International and Delhi International airports in the past few months, but observers believe the group's shares are still undervalued. That makes the Autogrill buy-in a wise one.

The fit between the two companies is apparent–in many ways Alpha is a mini Autogrill, with a strong catering business as well as duty-free interests. If Autogrill were to acquire Alpha, the UK-based company would offer strong synergies with HMSHost and Aldeasa, and good opportunities for the three companies to grow their businesses on the back of each others' existing footprints.

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(1-Jun-2007) - The Italian conglomerate’s share purchase from Servair takes its Alpha holding to the maximum allowable before it must make a full takeover offer
(27-Oct-2008) - Departure follows integration of Alpha Flight and Alpha Retail into Autogrill organisation
(4-Jun-2007) - The Italian company has been given the implicit go-ahead by Alpha Airports Group’s board to launch a full offer for the company
(12-Feb-2008) - The ambitious Italian conglomerate is seeking additional funding to finance acquisition bids, says Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore
(4-Jun-2007) - The two companies have officially announced the agreed cash offer Autogrill will make for the entire share capital of Alpha Airports Group