MADRID Italian toll-road company Atlantia (ATL.MI) is looking at the possibility of making a bid for Spanish rival Abertis (ABE.MC) in a deal that would create an industry giant with a market value of more than 35 billion euros (29.74 billion pounds), a source close to the matter said on Tuesday.
The takeover would be friendly and would likely involve a cash-and-share offer, the source said.
Atlantia, 30 percent controlled by the Benetton family, said in a statement it had expressed to Abertis a generic and preliminary interest in assessing "common projects", adding it had made no commitment and no plans had been submitted to its own board of directors. It gave no further details.
In a separate statement, Abertis said the terms of any transaction had not been established.
The two companies had agreed a merger in 2006 but the deal fell apart in the face of opposition from the Italian government.
Atlantia, whose shares fell 3.8 percent after Bloomberg first reported that it was considering a bid for Abertis, has a market value of just under 20 billion euros and in 2016 booked revenues of 5.5 billion euros.
The Spanish group has a capitalisation of 15.5 billion euros and sales last year totalled 4.9 billion euros.
Atlantia last year said it wanted to increase the share of core earnings generated abroad to 50 percent by 2020 from 25 percent at present.
As part of this strategy it is looking to sell a stake of around 15 percent in its Italian motorway division ASPI. Analysts have estimated that Atlantia, which is ASPI's sole owner, could bag around 2.5 billion euros from the sale.
Abertis's main shareholder is holding company Criteria Caixa, which also controls Caixabank (CABK.MC).
(Writing by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Greg Mahlich)