(Adds share performance, details throughout)
By Tatiana Bautzer and Guillermo Parra-Bernal
SAO PAULO, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Italy’s Gruppo Gavio has paid 2.22 billion reais ($573 million) to win joint control of EcoRodovias Infraestrutura & Logística SA, the Brazilian toll road operator whose owner needed cash to pay debt.
Gavio and the current owner, family-owned investment holding company Primav, will create a new company that will control EcoRodovias. Gavio will own all non-voting shares of the new company and 50 percent of voting shares, EcoRodovias said in a statement on Friday.
Primav, controlled by Brazil’s Almeida family, will contribute its 64 percent stake in EcoRodovias and 55 percent stake in a monorail project to the new company, which will have debt of 2.6 billion reais. Gavio’s indirect stake in EcoRodovias will be 41 percent.
JPMorgan Securities analyst Fernando Abdalla said the deal valued EcoRodovias at 11 reais a share, “implying a significant premium to the current market price.”
EcoRodovias shares rose 6.7 percent to 5.92 reais in midmorning trading in São Paulo. The stock has risen more than 12 percent since Reuters reported on Dec. 1 that Gavio was the front-runner to buy Primav’s stake in EcoRodovias, Brazil’s No. 2 toll road operator.
The agreement will help the Almeidas repay 2 billion reais in bank loans that it took to buy out Impregilo SpA, its former partner in EcoRodovias, three years ago. Gavio was a major shareholder in Impregilo at that time and has a close relationship with the Brazilian family.
The deal underscores multinational companies and local conglomerates’ increased interest in taking over Brazilian infrastructure companies that have been put up for sale during the nation’s deepest recession in a quarter-century.
EcoRodovias owns some of the largest toll road operations in São Paulo state, Brazil’s wealthiest and most populous, including the Anchieta/Imigrantes and the Ayrton Senna/Carvalho Pinto highway systems. It also operates a 13.3 kilometer-long (8.25 miles) bridge connecting Rio de Janeiro and the coastal city of Niteroi.
Under the agreement, the Almeidas will continue to elect the chairman of EcoRodovias. The statement noted that current Chairman Marcelino Rafart de Seras would remain in his post.
The 10-year agreement does not include any provision for Gavio to increase its stake in the new company. Gavio will have a two-year lock-up period as part of the accord, the statement added.
$1 = 3.8794 Brazilian reais Additional reporting by Silvio Cascione in Brasilia; Editing by Mark Potter and Lisa Von Ahn