January 8, 2018 / 6:29 PM / a year ago

Regulator rejects Spanish ministers' complaint on Atlantia bid

MADRID, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Spain’s market regulator on Monday stood by its 2017 authorisation of a 15.6 billion euro ($18.7 billion) bid by Italy’s Atlantia for Spanish rival Abertis, quashing a Spanish government request to revoke the approval.

The regulator’s affirmation bolsters Atlantia’s plan to create the world’s biggest toll road operator with a combined market value of more than 40 billion euros which has met with political hostility from Madrid.

Two senior Spanish ministers asked the country’s stock market and merger deal regulator to revoke the approval it granted in October for Atlantia’s bid, which has been cleared by the European Union’s competition regulators.

They complained the regulator should not have authorised the bid because the Italian company had not sought permission from the government to take control of Abertis’s satellite business, strategic for Spain because it manages the nation’s satellite communications system.

The regulator said on Monday its authorisation complied with Spanish law and said it trusted the takeover bid process could proceed normally.

Atlantia is expected to sweeten its 15.6 billion euro October bid for Abertis early this year.

It needs to trump a 17.1 billion euro counter-bid made in October by German bidder Hochtief, which is controlled by Spanish construction group ACS. The market regulator is currently reviewing Hochtief’s bid.

After the Spanish ministers’ intervention, Atlantia began preparing for legal action in case its bid was blocked, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters in December.

DLA Piper and Italy’s Gianni, Origoni, Grippo, Cappelli & Partners are among Atlantia’s legal advisers while Credit Suisse, Mediobanca and Santander are its main banks.

Freshfields and Linklaters are advising ACS and Hochtief on legal matters alongside a pool of investment banks led by JPMorgan and Lazard.

Abertis has retained Citi and boutique bank AZ Capital while Spanish law firm Uría Menéndez Abogados is its legal adviser. ($1 = 0.8351 euros) (Reporting By Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Adrian Croft)

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