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Italy PM says 'serious negligence' found in bridge collapse - paper

MILAN (Reuters) - An investigation by Italy’s transport ministry into the deadly collapse of a bridge operated by Atlantia has shown “serious and unforgivable acts of negligence”, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was quoted as saying on Monday.

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Conte told la Repubblica newspaper in an interview the government was nearing a decision on whether to revoke Atlantia’s motorway concession after a highway bridge collapsed in August 2018 killing 43 people in the city of Genoa.

“Clearly such a decision must be founded on a technical and juridical assessment of whether the concessionaire breached its obligations,” Conte said.

“At the stage of the analysis we have reached, I can say that it is evident someone made mistakes and is responsible for serious and unforgivable acts of negligence.”

Atlantia has denied any wrongdoing and said it always acted in compliance with its obligations. It was not immediately possible to reach a company representative for comment.

Through its Autostrade per l’Italia unit, Atlantia manages Italy’s biggest motorway network spanning some 3,000 kilometres. It is one of 26 motorway operators in Italy.

Autostrade CEO Roberto Tomasi said in a newspaper interview on Saturday that the company was at risk of bankruptcy if it was stripped of its motorway licence without adequate compensation.

Italy’s government recently passed a measure that curtails the payout owed to a company in the event of early termination of a concession if the firm is in breach of its contractual obligations.

In that case, state-owned company ANAS would temporarily manage the motorways involved, a draft document seen by Reuters shows.

Following the government’s move, credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded Atlantia’s debt for a second time in a month, pushing it further below the investment grade threshold citing growing political pressure on the group.

Reporting by Valentina Za, editing by Giulia Segreti and Jason Neely