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Autogrill To Buy Host Marriott

July 26, 1999

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) _ An Italian company that controls Europe’s largest restaurant group catering to travelers plans to offer $529 million in cash for Host Marriott Services Corp.

Autogrill SpA said Monday its offer would start Aug. 2 and must be accepted by two-thirds of Host Marriott shareholders. Autogrill said Host Marriott’s board has unanimously approved the buyout offer.

Bethesda-based Host Marriott, a major presence in U.S. airports, is the national leader in restaurant concessions, operating in almost 200 locations. It has concessions in 18 of the nation’s 20 largest airports and has the rights to the Burger King, Pizza Hut and Starbucks brands.

Mario Cibelli, who follows Host Marriott for Robotti & Co., a New York investment banking firm, said shareholders had been pressuring directors to make some kind of move.

``The stock was so undervalued. That’s partly why they did this,″ he said.

The $15.75 a share cash offer represents a nearly 62 percent premium over Host Marriott Services’ closing price of $9.75 a share Friday on the New York Stock Exchange.

``With smaller companies, that’s not a surprising premium,″ Cibelli said.

Autogrill, controlled by the apparel retailer Benetton, said the merger of the two companies would make it the world’s biggest restaurant operator catering to travelers. It would have activities in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.

Autogrill has 652 restaurants and bars in Europe. It recently won the rights to use the Burger King brand in Italy.

It plans to operate in five main areas: highway restaurants, airports, shopping centers, railway stations and quick-service urban outlets.

In 1998, the combined sales of the two groups reached an equivalent of over $2.6 billion.

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