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Italy’s rail station group Grandi Stazioni sale to be completed by end of 2015

by Celestina Dominelli

The sale of Grandi Stazioni rail station company will be completed by the end of 2015. The plan was confirmed by the state-controlled group yesterday after the board approved the spinoff of the retail activities ahead of their privatization.

“The results of the first six months of the year are even better than we expected, based on the targets that we set for 2015,” said Chief Executive Paolo Gallo. The company is 60%-controlled by Italian state railway Ferrovie dello Stato and 40%-owned by Eurostazioni, and which manages 14 main train stations in Italy and two stations in the Czech Republic.

“Traditionally this period of the year does not present the opportunity for many new openings, but we have already been able to open more than 50 stores: basically, we have recorded double the growth over last year,” he said.

The latest opening was yesterday, with the new Calvin Klein store at Galleria delle Carrozze at the Milan central station, which was recently revamped by Grandi Stazioni creating more than 500 square meters of commercial space for 10 new stores.

In 2015, the company targets opening 20,000 square meters of commercial activities compared with 130,000 planned in the entire business plan up to 2020.

“We are focusing our strategy on a better use of spaces and a careful choice of companies to ensure the best use of the space and a better quality of service,” Gallo said.

Two days ago, the board of Grandi Stazioni approved a spinoff plan under which Grandi Stazioni will change its name to Grandi Stazioni Rail, focused on infrastructure activities and the investment plan.

In addition, two new companies will be created: Grandi Stazioni Immobiliare, in charge of selling property currently owned by the company (with an equity value of around €20-30 million) and especially Grandi Stazioni Retail, which will manage all the commercial activities of the stations (and the relative 40-year concession contracts for Italy and 30-year contracts in the Czech Republic). This company will be privatized.

The next steps include a shareholder meeting to be held after an expert called by the Court of Rome will have assessed the value of the shares of Grandi Stazioni Rail. Under the plan, Ferrovie will buy 100% of the company and, in return, will give room to private investors in Grandi Stazioni Retail (Pirelli, Benetton, Caltagirone and France's Sncf).

The private investors will then completely exit Grandi Stazioni Rail, increasing their stake in the retail activities that will be sold. The international tender for expressions of interest will be published soon, probably at the end of July. Rothschild and McKinsey are working respectively as financial and industrial advisers.

Gianni Origoni Grippo Cappelli & Partners and Legance Avvocati Associati are legal advisors respectively for FS and for the private investors, while Comin&Partners is in charge of communications.