January 13, 2020 / 8:10 AM / 13 days ago

UPDATE 1-Italy PM says to decide soon on Atlantia motorway concession -paper

(Adds detail from separate newspaper report, background)

ROME, Jan 13 (Reuters) - The Italian government is close to a decision on whether to revoke Atlantia’s motorway concession and will base it on technical and judicial factors, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in an interview with the Corriere della Sera newspaper published on Monday.

“A decision will soon arrive and will be supported by solid judicial and technical bases,” Conte said.

Atlantia and the government are locked in a dispute over the possible revocation of the motorway concession held by its unit Autostrade per l’Italia (ASPI) following the collapse of a bridge in Genoa in August 2018 in which 43 people died.

“It is now evident that there have been very serious breaches in the management of the motorway infrastructure,” Conte said, adding that the government had to protect the public interest rather than ensuring a future to private concessionaires.

The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, the largest party in Italy’s ruling coalition, has been pressing its partners in the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and centrist Italia Viva group to revoke ASPI’s motorway concession.

However, the PD and Italia Viva worry that doing so would cost billions in compensation to Autostrade, potentially embroil the state in a long legal battle and hurt Italy’s image with international investors.

“Foreign investors know that, like in their countries, there are legal systems that envisage very hard remedies in case of breaches of contract,” Conte said in the interview regarding those concerns.

A final document, including a technical analysis drawn up by the infrastructure ministry, will be discussed in a cabinet meeting next week.

It is not clear whether a final decision will be taken before or after a regional election in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna on Jan. 26, newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano reported.

It added that the PD now agreed that stripping ASPI of its concession was the only way forward as negotiations with the Benetton family - Atlantia’s key shareholder - would be impossible.

Reporting by Giulia Segreti; additional reporting by Elisa Anzolin in Milan; editing by Christian Schmollinger and Jason Neely

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