FILE PHOTO: The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy August 16, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/File Photo
July 9, 2020
By Giulia Segreti
ROME (Reuters) – Atlantia <ATL.MI> shares dropped 9% on Thursday after it lost a legal dispute and the Italian government moved towards resolving a long-running political stalemate over whether to strip the company of its lucrative motorway contract.
Rome has been threatening to revoke the toll road licence held by Atlantia’s Autostrade per l’Italia (Aspi) unit since a bridge it operated in the port city of Genoa collapsed in 2018, killing 43 people.
However, the ruling coalition has struggled to find a common position, with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement calling for the licence to be revoked and the centre-left PD urging caution, fearing a hefty compensation claim against the state.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said a final decision would be made by the end of the week, and Deputy Transport Minister Giancarlo Cancelleri stepped up the pressure in a newspaper interview published on Thursday by warning of a government crisis if it did not reach an agreement soon.
“We would have a big problem. The risk of a crisis would be inevitable if a solution is not found over the next week,” Cancelleri, a member of the 5-Star, told la Repubblica.
A government source told Reuters that senior officials from the treasury and the transport ministry were scheduled to meet Aspi’s top management later on Thursday.
In a blow to Atlantia, which is controlled by the prominent Benetton family, Italy’s top court ruled late on Wednesday that a law excluding the company from the reconstruction work on the bridge that collapsed was not unlawful.
At 0920 GMT, Atlantia shares were down 9.3% at 12.97 euros.
Cancelleri urged Conte to call a cabinet meeting soon for all government members to discuss the future of Aspi’s concession. He reiterated that 5-Star was pushing for a cut in Atlantia’s stake in Aspi and for a reduction in tolls.
“It has been dragging for too long, I agree. So, either we get an offer (from Atlantia) which is particularly advantageous … or we press ahead with the revocation,” Conte was quoted as saying at Italy’s embassy in Madrid on Wednesday by several Italian newspapers.
(Reporting by Giulia Segreti,; Additional reporting by Giuseppe Fonte in Rome, Editing by Alex Richardson and Mark Potter)