Dufry AG, the world’s biggest duty-free operator, and the Benetton family’s Autogrill SpA are working on a deal that would create a leading player in travel retail, the Italian company said, confirming a previous report by Bloomberg.
Autogrill confirmed that “there are ongoing discussions, without any exclusivity, regarding a possible integration” with Dufry, according to a statement.
Talks between the Swiss and Italian companies are at an advanced stage and an agreement could be signed as soon as next month, people familiar with the matter said earlier, asking not to be named as the discussions are private.
Under the deal structure being considered, Dufry would purchase Autogrill and pay in shares, the people said. The Benettons would in turn be the new listed entity’s biggest single investor, with a stake of about 20 percent, the people said.
An accord in the travel business would mark a second major deal for Alessandro Benetton since taking the reins at Edizione in early 2022. The billionaire Italian family in April announced an agreement with Blackstone Inc. to take highway operator Atlantia SpA private.
The travel retail group emerging from a deal between Dufry and the family would have a market value of about $6.2 billion at current prices. The valuation gap between Dufry and Autogrill has been a key hurdle in the discussions, according to the people.
Dufry and the Benettons have been talking about a potential tie-up for months, following a series of informal approaches over the past few years, the people said, though both companies have also been evaluating other options.
After making their fortune in textiles more than 50 years ago, the Treviso, Italy-based Benettons began diversifying in the 1990s, notably through a string of investments in highway and airport operators and concessionaires. The family took over Autogrill, which specializes in food and beverage services on toll highways, in 1995, and it owns 50.1 percent of the company.
The shakeup at the holding company, which culminated in Alessandro Benetton’s appointment, began in the wake of the deadly 2018 bridge collapse in Genoa, on a section of road managed by the family’s Autostrade per l’Italia SpA. The Benettons eventually sold Autostrade to end a standoff with the government over the bridge disaster.