The global economic space is involved in a number of major projects designed to promote political, economic and social integration. The European Union’s Trans-European Transport Network, development of the Eurasian Economic Union and China’s Belt and Road Initiative confirm the central role played by connectivity infrastructure in driving growth.
In this context, public-private partnerships are capable of accelerating growth. Atlantia is an example. Established in 1950 as Società Autostrade - Concessioni e Costruzioni Autostrade SpA, under a Concession Arrangement entered into with ANAS in 1956, the Company undertook to co-finance, build and operate the Autostrada del Sole between Milan and Naples. Work began in May of that year and was completed in 1964. New agreements followed in 1962 and 1968, granting the Company the concession to build and operate further motorways throughout the country.
By bringing manufacturers closer to their markets and to Europe, improving access to city centres, reducing the time it takes to travel between the north and south of the country and boosting tourism, the motorway network played a key part in Italy’s post-war reconstruction. It enabled Italy to rebuild and relaunch its economy, helping to make it one of the most developed economies on the planet.
And this development drive goes on, taking on global dimensions following the Group’s privatisation and demonstrating how, by working together, the public and private sectors can play complementary and strategic roles.
When it was privatised in 2000, Autostrade operated a 3,000-km long motorway network under concession, all of it located in Italy. This accounted for around 50% of the country’s toll motorway system, generating EBITDA of €1.2 billion. Over the next 15 years, the Group, which changed its name to Atlantia in 2007, embarked on a geographical expansion and diversification strategy involving a series of acquisitions that have enabled us to consolidate our global leadership in the provision of transport-related and infrastructure services. As a result, the Group’s EBITDA grew to almost €3.7 billion in 2017, with 5,000 km of motorway operated in Europe, Latina America and India and 60 million passengers handled at airports in Rome and Nice.
The acquisition of Abertis in 2018 has confirmed Atlantia’s undisputed global leadership in the management of transport infrastructure, with a diversified portfolio of assets located in 15 countries, including 14,000 km of motorways and 5 airports, and total EBITDA of almost €7 billion. The transaction has enabled us to achieve our goal of diversifying the Group’s business at global level.
In the current economic climate, we are faced with an increasingly urgent need to address the issue of a shortage of public funding for the projects required if we are make up for the current lack of infrastructure. One of the most widely adopted solutions to this problem is the involvement of private resources and capital.
The Atlantia Group is thus a key player in the development of connectivity in many countries, complementing the role of trans-national networks. The growing number of major integration projects around the world involve the implementation of large-scale infrastructure programmes, such as the San Gotthard tunnel or expansion of the Suez Canal.
These are often highly capital intensive projects, whose justification often lies in the need to integrate and develop less advantaged areas of the world, rather than in any intrinsic ability to provide a return on investment. For this reason, such works are financed out of the public purse. In contrast, there are opportunities for private investment in projects that can pay for themselves thanks to high demand for the related transport, thus freeing up public funds for investment in major international integration projects.
For example, the motorways operated by the Atlantia Group in Italy represent an infrastructure system that reinforces the main corridors that make up Europe’s road system, forming part of the north-south backbone connecting northern Europe with the Mediterranean and a number of east-west routes carrying traffic between western and eastern Europe.
Among the airports operated by the Group under concession, Fiumicino stands out as one of the main air terminals along the new silk road, with up to 32 flights a week heading to China, thanks to the presence of four leading Chinese carriers and the growing importance of air traffic between Rome and China.
In the near future, Atlantia plans to invest up to €13 billion in improvements to the worst bottlenecks in the 3,000 km of motorway we operate under concession in Italy. This is in addition to the €12 billion already invested and another €10 billion that we intend to spend on expanding Fiumicino airport.
In many cases, these projects regard the upgrade of existing motorway infrastructure, widening the most congested sections to 3 or 4 lanes in order to improve roads serving major conurbations or international corridors. In addition, we have to respond to the growing number of passengers using our airports, improving connectivity between the Roman airport system and Italy as a whole and the rest of the world.
Atlantia is today a global leader in the motorway and airport infrastructure sectors. Our cash generation and investment capabilities, together with our world-beating integrated expertise, make the Group a unique player, able to compete with the world’s biggest infrastructure companies and providing an ever better response to the transport needs of all of the countries in which we operate.