June 11, 2020 / 6:46 PM / 24 days ago

Atlantia swings to first-quarter net loss amid virus, concession row

FILE PHOTO: A logo of the Atlantia Group is seen outside their headquarters in Rome, Italy August 31, 2018. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian infrastructure group Atlantia (ATL.MI) swung to a net loss in the first quarter as the impact of the coronavirus crisis compounded fallout from a prolonged political dispute over its motorway concession.

Between January and March, traffic on Atlantia’s motorway network in Italy fell 20.7% while passengers at its airports in Rome tumbled 33% as the lockdown imposed by the Italian government to contain COVID-19 took its toll.

The group, controlled by the Benetton family, reported a 15% fall in revenue to 2.21 billion euros ($2.50 billion) and said it posted a net loss of 10 million euros from a profit of 157 million euros in the same period last year.

The standoff with the government started in 2018 when a bridge operated by Atlantia’s motorway unit Autostrade per l’Italia collapsed, killing 43 people.

Since the disaster the government has been threatening to strip Autostrade of its lucrative motorway concession.

The dispute has caused higher maintenance costs for the group, a freeze of road tolls and the cut of the group’s rating to junk status.

Atlantia said on Thursday it was keeping all options open to safeguard its interests in talks with the transport ministry over its motorway concession, adding it hoped for a rapid and positive solution to the row.

It added, however, it had not received any formal answer to a settlement offer worth 2.9 billion euros it had put forward in March.

The group also said Autostrade and other group’s units had asked for a state-backed loan worth up to 1.7 billion euros.

Reporting by Francesca Landini, editing by Stephen Jewkes and Marguerita Choy

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