Abertis has offloaded half its stake in the French satellite group Eutelsat for €981m in the latest of a string of divestments by the indebted Catalan infrastructure and toll road operator.

Abertis, which holds the concession rights to London’s Luton airport, placed 16 per cent of the Paris-listed Eutelsat, at a price of €27.85 per share, a 6.4 per cent discount against their closing price on Thursday.

The French government holds a 26 per cent stake in Eutelsat through the government-controlled investment fund FSI, and is known to regard satellites as a strategic business, meaning analysts had doubted Abertis’s ability to win control over the company.

Abertis had previously said that its strategy for its holding in Eutelsat, and the 33.3 per cent it controls of Hispasat, Spain’s national satellite operator, was based on either building a controlling position over time or eventually selling them.

The sale generated a net capital gain of €396m for Abertis, which had net debts of €13.9bn in September last year. The company said it had agreed to a six-month lock-up period for the remaining 15.3 per cent stake in Eutelsat.

In 2010 CVC, the buy-out group, took control of 15.5 of Abertis’ shares after the Catalan group had been the subject of a failed €25bn leveraged buy out. Since the private equity company joined the Abertis board it has sold various assets, including a €626m disposal of its stake in the Italian toll road operator Atalantia.

After the sale Abertis shares rose by 1 per cent to €13.01.

“The disposal of Atlantia, Saba and now Eutelsat have all been well received by the market, which has supported the strategy of just focusing on core performing businesses,” said analysts at Mirabaud.

La Caixa, the Catalan savings bank, which listed part of its operations on the Madrid exchange last year, is Abertis’s largest investor with a 28.5 per cent stake.

The accelerated book build, which follows a sale by Repsol of its own shares to investors this week, was run by Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, and Société Générale.

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