June 25, 2019 / 7:10 PM / 5 months ago

Italy's 5-Star to insist on revoking Atlantia's concession - source

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s 5-Star Movement will ask to revoke Atlantia’s motorway concession at a meeting with top ministers in Rome, a party source said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte attends a news conference after the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 21, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was meeting with League party’s officials, Industry Minister Luigi Di Maio and Infrastructure Minister Danilo Toninelli, who are prominent members of the 5-Star Movement, three sources familiar with the matter said.

The meeting late on Tuesday was called to discuss how to deal with an ongoing procedure to scrap the motorway concession of Autostrade per l’Italia (ASPI), which is part of infrastructure group Atlantia.

ASPI has been under intense criticism from the government since last August, when a motorway bridge it operated collapsed, killing 43 people.

After the disaster the government set in motion a complex procedure to revoke ASPI’s motorway concession, which accounts for around one third of Atlantia’s core profits.

“The movement will head into the meeting asking for the revocation of the concession,” the 5-Star source said.

The move of the 5-Star Movement will likely worsen relations between the government and infrastructure group, reducing the chances of Atlantia’s involvement in the rescue of troubled flagship carrier Alitalia.

But there has been speculation the government could soften its stance on Atlantia to open the way to an investment by the infrastructure group in Alitalia.

The prime minister’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Di Maio, who leads 5-Star, has strongly criticised Atlantia for not adequately maintaining the bridge that collapsed. His party colleague Toninelli has repeatedly said he is committed to scrapping ASPI’s concessions.

The company has denied any wrongdoing.

“Whoever has made a mistake has to pay for it, and I can assure you he will pay,” said Di Maio in a post about the bridge disaster published on his Facebook account ahead of the meeting.

The League’s leader Salvini has signalled he is more open to talking with Atlantia, which he has described as his preferred partner for Alitalia.

Atlantia’s involvement could have been a turning point in efforts to save Alitalia, but several sources said earlier this month the plan still lacked a political green light.

Italy’s state-owned railway group Ferrovie dello Stato is spearheading attempts to set up a consortium of investors to buy the Italian carrier, which is managed by administrators.

So far Ferrovie has secured the commitment of Delta Air Lines, but it is struggling to find another partner who is willing to invest around 300 million euros ($336 million) in Alitalia, which has a long history of financial woe.

On June 15, Italy’s Industry Ministry postponed for the fourth time a deadline for Ferrovie to present a binding rescue bid for Alitalia, extending it to July 15.

Writing by Francesca Landini; Editing by Jan Harvey and Tom Brown

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