August 31, 2018 / 11:08 AM / 25 days ago

Senior Italian official casts doubt over nationalizing Autostrade

MARINA DI PIETRASANTA, Italy (Reuters) - A top Italian official raised doubts on Friday over the idea of nationalizing Autostrade per l’Italia following a deadly bridge collapse, saying the other option was to launch a European tender for the toll-road company’s concessions.

FILE PHOTO: The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy August 15, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/File Photo

The government has already moved to strip Autostrade of its concessions after a viaduct on one of its motorways collapsed in the port city of Genoa two weeks ago, killing 43 people.

On Monday Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, leader of the ruling coalition’s anti-establishment 5 Star Movement, said the “only solution” was to nationalize Autostrade’s motorways.

But speaking at a conference at a Tuscan seaside town on Friday, cabinet undersecretary Giancarlo Giorgetti said reallocation of the Autostrade concessions was one of two options, the other being for the state to step in.

Giorgetti added he had some “doubts” about the nationalization option, saying the state did not have the skills and means to run the network.

“We are pressing ahead with revocation of the concession ... We have filed our contestation with Autostrade and their reply will arrive in days and then we will decide,” he said.

Separately on Friday Autostrade’s board reiterated its belief that the company had met in a timely fashion all contractual obligations under its concessions.

It said its reply to the government’s move to revoke its concessions would be sent to the Infrastructure Ministry within the deadline set.

Autostrade per l’Italia, 88 percent owned by Benetton-controlled infrastructure group Atlantia, runs around 3,000 kilometers of toll roads and accounts for more than 60 percent of its parent company’s core earnings.

Reporting by Silvia Ognibene and Francesca Landini; Writing by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Andrew Bolton

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