Italy’s state lender may take over Autostrade

Reuters, ROME

Thu, Aug 23, 2018 - Page 10

Italian state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti SpA (CDP) might buy a controlling stake in Atlantia SpA’s Autostrade per l’Italia after the collapse last week of a bridge managed by the motorway operator, two sources said, but the Italian Ministry of Economic Development denied knowledge of any such proposal.

Some members of the anti-establishment government have suggested that the motorway network should be nationalized after the collapse of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa that killed 43 people.

The possibility of the state taking a controlling stake in Autostrade through CDP “is one of the options being discussed,” a source close to the matter said.

A ministerial source close to Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte confirmed the possibility it was being considered by the ruling coalition, adding that he personally viewed it as “not a bad idea.”

However, the ministry, which owns more than 80 percent of CDP, has no knowledge of any such idea, a ministry official said when asked for a comment.

Official government spokespeople did not respond to a request for a comment.

It was not immediately possible to contact CDP.

Edizione, the holding company of the Benetton family, which ultimately controls Autostrade through Atlantia, had no comment.

Autostrade is the largest toll-road operator in Italy, controlling about half the market.

According to its concession pact, the government is obligated to compensate the company to terminate the contract before its expiration in 2038.

The compensation would be calculated based on the net present value of expected cash flows until the end of the concession, net of costs, liabilities, investments and projected taxes, and excluding net financial debt, which would be assumed by the guarantor.

Autostrade’s enterprise value, which includes debt, is about 25 billion euros (US$28.9 billion).

Additional reporting by Bloomberg