July 24, 2019 / 11:19 AM / 5 months ago

UPDATE 1-Atlantia's investment in Alitalia may normalise relations with govt-Fitch

(Adds comments, background)

MILAN, July 24 (Reuters) - Credit rating agency Fitch said that the selection of infrastructure group Atlantia as a partner in the rescue of Alitalia suggested a potential normalisation of its relationship with the Italian government.

After the deadly collapse of a motorway bridge in Genoa, the government and the group controlled by the Benetton family have been at loggerheads for almost a year over the possible early termination of a motorway concession granted to Atlantia’s unit Autostrade per l’Italia (ASPI).

In a report published on Wednesday, Fitch said an early termination without compensation was unlikely.

“We do not see the early termination of ASPI’s concession as our base case scenario as there is still no clear agreement within government coalition parties (on the issue),” said Fitch in the report.

Fitch added that, if the government revokes the concession and the transport ministry takes it over, the debt of ASPI would be fully consolidated in Italy’s public debt, which is already the second-largest in the euro zone as proportion of its output.

Analysts and investors see revocation as a negative scenario given the concession accounts for around one third of the group’s core profits.

In addition, in case of the early termination of the ASPI concession, its bondholders would be entitled to request the early repayment of bonds worth several billions.

The recent selection of Atlantia as a potential partner in the government-sponsored re-launch of flagship carrier Alitalia has, however, soothed analysts and investors’ concerns as it is seen as a way to mend the relation between the two.

Atlantia is currently in talks with the state-owned railway group and U.S. carrier Delta Air Lines to prepare a business plan for the re-launch of the carrier. The plan should be presented by Sept. 15.

According to Fitch, Atlantia’s potential investment of 300 million euros ($335 million) in Alitalia would not have a major impact on the infrastructure group’s credit position.

Fitch has a BBB rating with a negative outlook on Atlantia and a BBB+ rating with negative outlook, on ASPI. ($1 = 0.8969 euros) (Reporting by Francesca Landini Editing by Keith Weir)

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