ROME (Reuters) – Italian travel catering group Autogrill said on Wednesday its board was not examining any “extraordinary operation” after a newspaper report of a possible tie-up with its larger Swiss rival Dufry.
Italian daily newspaper MF reported on Wednesday that Autogrill was weighing a possible alliance with Dufry as an option for future growth.
“Though Autogrill is always open to assessing any opportunity the market might offer in order to pursue its strategic objectives, as of today no extraordinary operation is being examined by the board of the company,” Autogrill said in a statement responding to the report.
Duty-free shopping group Dufry also denied the report.
“Autogrill has already denied this and so do we. There is nothing to it at all,” a Dufry spokesperson said.
Shares in Autogrill were up 1.5% at 0930 GMT after rising as much as 5% in early trading. The stock was outperforming a slightly positive Milan’s all-share index.
Dufry shares were up 3.2% compared to an 0.5% rise in the Swiss performance index.
Benetton’s holding company Edizione, which owns 50.1% of Autogrill, declined to comment on the report.
Autogrill, which manages restaurants and bars on motorways and at airports, launched a 600 million euro ($710 million) capital increase in mid-June, which was fully subscribed.
The Benetton family provided half of the cash to support the catering group, which needed to raise fresh liquidity to cut its financial debt.
As a result of impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the market value of the Italian group has shrunk to 2.5 billion euros, which is less than half of Dufry’s current market value.
MF said in its report that in the event of a tie-up with Dufry, the Benettons could significantly cut their stake to make room for new investors.
Autogrill said last month that under agreements its signed with creditors to ease debt covenants it could only spend on mergers and acquisitions from 2023.
($1 = 0.8455 euros)
(Reporting by Giulia Segreti; Additional reporting by Francesca Landini in Milan and Paul Arnold in Zurich; editing by Alexander Smith and Barbara Lewis)