November 9, 2018 / 10:40 PM / 3 days ago

Italy's Atlantia sets $400 million aside to cover costs of deadly bridge collapse

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian infrastructure group Atlantia (ATL.MI) has set aside 350 million euros ($400 million) to cover the estimated cost of rebuilding the Genoa bridge which collapsed in August and compensating the families of those killed.

The viaduct disaster claimed 43 lives, sparking intense criticism from the Italian government for motorway operator Autostrade and its parent company Atlantia.

Atlantia’s provision for the preliminary estimated costs of the disaster meant the group’s net profit for the first nine months was 15 percent lower than a year earlier.

It said the provision was to cover the “cost of demolition and reconstruction of the road bridge and compensation payable to victims’ families and to the injured”.

Autostrade said in a separate statement it was in a dispute with the insurance company regarding its liability for the incident under the relevant third party liability policy, which the motorway company believes to provide cover.

Autostrade did not name the insurance company.

Atlantia’s net profit of 733 million euros was also below an average estimate from analysts of 767 million euros.

The Rome-based company, which is controlled by the Benetton family, also decided not to pay an interim dividend for the first time since 2013.

It said Autostrade, which until recently accounted for two thirds of Atlantia’s core profit, may not contribute to the dividend it plans to pay out to investors in May 2019.

Autostrade’s core profit contribution is set to halve following Atlantia’s acquisition of Spanish rival Abertis.

The Italian group took over Abertis together with Spanish builder ACS (ACS.MC), which is headed by Florentino Perez, the chairman of Spanish soccer club Real Madrid.

Shares in the group ended up 1.3 percent, reversing earlier losses, with a Milan-based analyst citing the reassurance that a dividend on Atlantia’s 2018 results would not be scrapped.

The government has blamed Autostrade for serious oversights in the collapse of the bridge and has said it intends to revoke its Italian motorway concessions.

The company and nine of its employees are under judicial investigation, along with the transport ministry, for culpable homicide.

Autostrade per l’Italia, has denied wrongdoing, saying regular, state-supervised inspections had indicated the aging bridge was safe.

Editing by Alexander Smith and Mark Potter

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