9 April 2018 – Expansión
Criteria, the controlling shareholder of Saba, with a 51% stake, is holding advanced discussions with the minority shareholders of the parking lot group to become the sole shareholder of the company. The investment by La Caixa’s industrial holding company, which could take a decision within the next few weeks, would put an end to the current period of uncertainty that the company has been subject to since Torreal (20%), KKR (18.5%) and ProA (10.5%) agreed to sell their stakes (49%) in a coordinated way more than a year ago.
For Criteria, which declined to comment on the operation, the investment in Saba would represent its first major buy-side move since it sold 10% of Gas Natural-Fenosa to the fund GIP in 2016 for around €1.8 billion and ahead of its eventual exit this year from Abertis if the joint takeover bid by ACS and Atlantia proves successful. For its 18% share in the highway group, Criteria could receive more than €3 billion to use for new investments.
Saba’s valuation ranges in multiplies of between 12x and 14x its EBITDA, which amounted to €100 million in 2017. Taking this relationship as a reference, 100% of the parking lot group chaired by Salvador Alemany would be worth €1.4 billion, including the debt.
Saba’s minority shareholders have forced this outcome. According to the shareholders’ agreements, in May a drag along clause will be activated whereby any of the shareholders may force the sale of 100% of the company. KKR, ProA and Torreal notified La Caixa of their intention to look for a buyer. According to the sources consulted, Criteria has manifested its willingness to buy at the estimated prices.
For the funds, this is an acceptable solution – given the good relationship they have with the majority shareholder – which would also give continuity in terms of the management of the company. With 100% of Saba, Criteria could tackle the subsidiary’s growth strategy with greater freedom at a time when the parking lot sector is open to new corporate movements and company consolidation. Saba will hold its Annual General Shareholders Meeting on 9 May, which Criteria and the investment funds could use to materialise the operation with the configuration of a new Board of Directors if there is a change in the shareholding. The agenda for Saba’s meeting includes the appointment and ratification of directors.
Saba recorded turnover of €205 million in 2016, up by 7%. Its EBITDA, without taking into account the effect of divestments from its logistics parks, rose by 10% to €94 million, whilst its net profit remained at €4 million, which would have been €32 million if the aforementioned exceptional operation was taken into account. The firm’s net financial debt at the end of 2016 amounted to €357 million. Two-thirds of Saba’s business is generated in Spain.
Between 2011, when it broke away from Abertis, and 2016, the company led by Josep Martínez Vila invested €545 million to expand its business perimeter to include 195,000 spaces, although it also divested its logistics assets, with the aim of focusing purely on its parking lot activity. Following the operations of Aena, Adif and the Town Hall of Barcelona, the company has barely made any significant moves, despite expressing interest in its rivals such as Empark and Vincipark, amongst others.
Original story: Expansión (by C. Morán, M. Ponce de León & S. Saborit)
Translation: Carmel Drake