Autogrill Advances Most in 18 Months on Possible Demerger

Autogrill SpA, the world’s biggest manager of airport and highway restaurants, said it’s considering splitting its two main divisions, sending the shares up the most in 18 months.

A separation may involve a “partial, proportional demerger” of the travel retail and duty free unit from the food and beverage division, the Novara, Italy-based company said today in a statement. The shares gained as much as 6 percent to 9.58 euros, the steepest advance since July 29, 2011.

Autogrill got about 69 percent of its 5.8 billion euros ($7.9 billion) of revenue in 2011 from the food and beverage unit, according to the company’s website. The travel retail unit includes the World Duty Free chain of airport shops and had revenue of 1.82 billion euros in 2011.

“We believe this could be the first in a series of potential deals in both the food and beverages and travel retail businesses and suspect the actual spinoff might take place in the third quarter,” Marco Baccaglio, an analyst at CA Cheuvreux, wrote in a report today.

While business will remain under pressure because of high raw-material costs in the U.S., weak traffic in Italy and future rent increases in Spain, “the focus is now shifting to M&A scenarios,” said Baccaglio. He raised his price estimate on the stock to 10.8 euros from 9 euros and kept an outperform rating.

Autogrill was up 3.6 percent at 9.36 euros at 10:04 a.m. in Milan trading, heading for the highest close since May 20, 2011.

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