The Atlantia group, controlled by the Benetton family, will exit Italian highways according to a draft agreement found with the government. The withdrawal from this sector follows the deadly collapse of the Genoa bridge, Rome announced in a statement on Wednesday.
The draft agreement provides for “the immediate transfer of control of Aspi (the Italian motorway subsidiary of Atlantia) to a public body, the Caisse des Dépôts et Loans (CDP)”, specifies the presidency of the council in this text. The financial compensation was set at 3.4 billion euros.
Atlantia currently owns 88% of Aspi, the manager of the Genoa bridge that collapsed in August 2018, costing the lives of 43 people. Since this tragedy, Atlantia has been in turmoil because the investigation, still underway, has revealed serious shortcomings in the maintenance of the bridge.
The government launched a procedure after the tragedy to decide whether to withdraw its motorway concessions to Aspi, before giving Atlantia a few days ago an ultimatum to formulate an acceptable proposal to avoid such a situation.
After having initially adopted a line of compromise, the head of the Italian government Giuseppe Conte had thus chosen these last days to harden the tone. Pushed by one of the two government parties, the 5 Star Movement (M5S, anti-system), he put pressure on Atlantia.
This file “has been going on for too long, the revocation procedure has been launched and all the conditions are met to carry it out, because the breaches are objective, multiple and proven,” said Mr. Conte last week. “So either a proposal particularly advantageous for the state arrives, or we will revoke (concessions),” he said.
The presidency of the council indicates that Aspi made new proposals overnight: “Considering their content, the council of ministers has decided to launch the procedure provided by law for the formal definition of the agreement”. It nevertheless specifies that “the renunciation of the revocation (of motorway concessions) can only take place in the event of complete completion of the agreement”.
This provides for “a very important maintenance and investment plan”. The transfer of control will be done via “a capital increase reserved for the CDP and the purchase of shares by institutional investors”, which will result in “the withdrawal of Aspi from the perimeter of Atlantia and the start of the Aspi listing on the Stock Exchange “.