Clever thinking: After exiting the Italian motorway, Atlantia relies on Traffic Tech

FILE PHOTO: An Atlantia sign outside the Italian infrastructure group's headquarters in Rome
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Italian infrastructure group Atlantia is seen in front of its headquarters in Rome, Italy, October 5, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

March 9, 2022

By Francesca Landini and Stephen Jewkes

MILAN (Reuters) – After selling its motorway business in Italy, Atlantia is investing in intelligent transport technology to spur the development of cleaner transport and expand into new markets such as the United States.

The infrastructure group, controlled by the Benetton family, is looking to put an end to a dispute sparked by the deadly 2018 autostrade per l’Italia motorway bridge collapse in Genoa.

The company sold that business and has begun using a portion of the €8 billion ($8.7 billion) expected proceeds from the transaction in the coming months to expand into Smart Traffic Tech.

In January, it bought Siemens’ Yunex Traffic division for €950 million – a move that made it the only major motorway operator in Europe with a smart traffic business.

As a first mover, it now has the opportunity to expand this business and consolidate a fragmented market.

The company, which will brief investors on its future strategy on March 11, sees the transportation technology business as important in its own right, but also as a complement to its existing operations.

“The value of any highway and airport company without technology is expected to decline. In 5-6 years, this could become another core Atlantia business,” said a source familiar with the matter.

Atlantia’s main activities are highways, airports and the digital toll payment company Telepass. The group controls the Spanish motorway operator Abertis, operates a number of airports in Italy and France, has a 15% stake in the Channel Tunnel operator Getlink and owns 51% of Telepass.

The source said the group is seeking add-on technology opportunities such as private equity-owned special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) or spin-off spin-offs developed in-house by groups like BMW and Bosch.

Yunex will allow Atlantia to quickly understand the market where it competes with around 300 other smart tech groups, the source said.

“Automakers could be interesting partners given the clear synergies,” the source said.


Atlantia’s impetus comes as governments around the world seek high tech to reduce traffic congestion and pollution to make major cities more livable and businesses more efficient.

Connecting traffic data services and connecting vehicles will allow cars to map their own routes to reduce travel times and carbon emissions, and give city governments more money for existing infrastructure.

Under pressure from the European Union to cut emissions, many European cities will need technology to optimize traffic flow.

“The best route is chosen by the car and not by Google Maps – whether with or without a driver,” the source said.

Yunex, which operates in more than 500 cities worldwide, has developed a range of services including a system where traffic lights, cameras and sensors relay data to a control room, which processes the data to reduce congestion and accidents.

In the western German city of Wiesbaden, a government-sponsored Yunex system introduced in November gives drivers route and speed recommendations on digital roadside displays controlled by a traffic control center.

The Wiesbaden control room can control traffic flows to relieve congestion on main roads or to give priority to buses, ambulances and fire engines on public transport.


Atlantia said in January it expects the intelligent transportation systems (ITS) market to grow at a compound growth rate of 10% per year through 2026, underpinned by a global shift toward more sustainable transportation.

It is looking to develop new business in cities around the world, including Latin America, where its Abertis subsidiary has a strong presence, albeit outside metropolitan areas, and in the United States.

ITS technology is needed to set up toll systems and to analyze and control traffic volumes.

“The US market is of particular interest given the demand for innovative technology to map connections between airports and highways,” said a second source.

Yunex already operates in US cities like Boston and counties like Miami-Dade, Florida, where it deploys its traffic management system.

The second source said the deal could offer twice the returns of Atlantia’s traditional highway concession business.

In Europe, Atlantia plans to replicate Yunex’s activities in its key geographic markets – Italy, France and Spain – by offering urban traffic monitoring and motorway junction and tunnel management services both on its network and on the infrastructures of other customers offers.

Getlink could become one of Yunex’s new customers, a third source said. Two of the sources added that Atlantia, which has not publicly stated its intentions, is considering options to increase its stake in the Channel Tunnel operator.

In January, Atlantia announced that Yunex’s revenue will reach 1 billion euros in the next five years, compared to 635 million euros last year.

The technology shift, which includes Atlantia’s recent investment in electric air-taxi maker Volocopter, could also reduce regulatory risk associated with the group’s portfolio of concession-based businesses.

“After the bridge disaster, it is now clear to everyone that the regulatory risk is difficult to assess and manage,” said another source familiar with the group’s strategy.

(Reporting by Francesca Landini and Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Keith Weir and Jane Merriman) Clever thinking: After exiting the Italian motorway, Atlantia relies on Traffic Tech

Emma Bowman

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