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Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Milano, where we lay our scene.
OK, Shakespeare was not writing about the Gavio and Salini families when he penned Romeo and Juliet. But if he had, here is what he would have said. It is a while since two prominent Italian families went mano-a-mano over the future of one company. Yet that is what is happening at construction group Impregilo, where a fight for control of the board could be decided this week. Each side is wooing minority investors (for once). But the bitterness of the fight conceals the paucity of the stakes: whoever wins, there seems to be little immediate upside for investors.
Impregilo, Italy’s biggest builder by sales, has been steadily profitable in the past five years even though annual revenue has faltered as the slowdown in construction in Europe grinds on. But it has been shedding value: its shares tumbled from €7 then to €1.50 last September. Now, with the proxy battle between the two families – each of which owns 29 per cent of Impregilo – they are at €3, valuing the group at €1.2bn. Much of that is tied to its 29 per cent stake in EcoRodovias, a toll road concession in Brazil.
Pietro Salini, boss of his privately held, internationally focused construction group, says he would sell the Brazil asset to refocus Impregilo on both construction and Italy if he gains control of the board at a shareholders meeting this week. His rival Beniamino Gavio says the concession business, which includes a network of motorways in Italy, is a core part of Impregilo.
Gavio and Salini have made vague promises of a special dividend and/or a share repurchase if investors back them. That is meagre gruel, indeed. What Impregilo investors really want, of course, is a takeover offer. That is the one thing the families are keen to avoid (because they cannot afford it). Any takers?
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