(Adds Saccomanni statement, background, details)
ROME, July 19 Italy aims to extract value from
shareholdings in companies including oil group Eni,
aerospace group Finmeccanica and energy group Enel
but is cautious about a possible sale of the stakes,
officials said on Friday.
Speaking after Finance Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni told
Bloomberg Television that he would not rule out the sale or use
of some state-owned shareholdings, ministry spokesman Roberto
Basso said divestment was only one possible option.
He said using the stakes as collateral in financial
operations was also among the options being considered, but he
did not provide details.
In a statement issued after the interview, Saccomanni denied
having spoken of any specific plans to sell shareholdings,
saying he had been speaking in general terms about options for
reducing the public debt.
Basso noted the government had already made clear it
intended to use state assets including real estate holdings to
cut the debt and said the programme could be extended to include
"A plan for extracting value from shareholdings that the
state owns can't be ruled out but it's a scenario which should
be considered with great caution because these are profitable
listed companies which pay dividends," he said.
Separately, a source at the Treasury said there were no
active plans at the moment to sell the stakes or to use them as
collateral for issuing government bonds.
"There is no dossier open on this, there is nothing under
way at the moment," said the official, speaking on condition of
Three sources at Italian banks which normally advise the
treasury on debt management said they had not heard of any
concrete plan under preparation.
The Italian state holds stakes of around 30 percent in each
of Finmeccanica, Eni and Enel and there has long been pressure
to sell off parts of these holdings to cut its chronically high
public debt, now the second highest in the euro zone at more
than 130 percent of gross domestic product.
On Thursday, a lawmaker from the centre-right People of
Freedom party, a partner in Prime Minister Enrico Letta's ruling
coalition, said the government planned a series of roadshows
after the summer to detail the sale of selected state assets as
part of a strategy to cut its public debt.
He gave no details about what assets could be involved but
the other main party in the coalition, the centre-left
Democratic Party, has frequently criticised proposals to sell
stakeholdings in companies with major strategic importance.
The value of listed and unlisted companies owned by the
treasury is around 130 billion euros, according to the Bruno
Leoni think tank, which studies privatisations and the role of
the state in private companies.
Carlo Stagnaro, head of research at the institute, said
selling off the stakes would help cut the debt as well as
improving competition in the market.
But he said using state-owned stakes in private companies as
collateral for new borrowing would not solve the problem of
reducing public debt.
(Reporting by Giselda Vagnoni and Francesca Landini; Writing by