ROME (Reuters) - The Italian government plans to list Autostrade per l'Italia by early next year after forcing through an agreement with the Benetton family to take Atlantia's ATL.MI motorway business under state control, sources close to the matter told Reuters.
The agreement was hammered out at an all-night cabinet meeting this week, avoiding the threatened cancellation of Atlantia’s lucrative operating concession.
“On Wednesday we built the picture frame, now we have to put the picture in,” one of the sources said, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.
The deal opens the way to settlement of a bitter dispute sparked by the collapse of a Genoa bridge run by Atlantia’s tollway business in 2018, killing 43 people.
Under the proposed deal, state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) is expected to take an initial 33% stake in Autostrade through a capital increase of more than 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion).
An official memorandum of understanding is expected to be ready by the end of July, the sources said.
CDP will then, by October, set up a vehicle that will control an overall 55% of Autostrade by incorporating a stake bought from Atlantia by private investors designated by the state lender.
A second source cautioned that the situation is fluid and the deal’s structure could change in the next few days.
Over the next six to eight months Autostrade will be demerged and listed, paving the way for the Benettons to reduce their stake to about 10%, two sources said.
“The new Autostrade could be listed as soon as January,” one of the sources said.
As the largest shareholder in Atlantia, which also controls airport operator ADR and digital toll payment business Telepass, the Benettons have become the focus of intense pressure from the ruling 5-Star Movement, which wants the family to pull out completely at the time of the planned listing.
CDP, Atlantia and the Benettons declined to comment.
Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte and Stephen Jewkes; Additional reporting by Francesca Landini; Editing by David Goodman
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