June 24, 2020 / 12:48 PM / 18 days ago

Atlantia concession deal elusive but contacts resume: sources

MILAN (Reuters) - The Italian government has launched a new attempt to break a stalemate with Benetton-led Atlantia (ATL.MI) over the group’s motorway concession, but a solution to the long-running dispute remains elusive, three sources said on Wednesday.

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

Rome has threatened to strip the company of its valuable concession following the deadly 2018 collapse of a bridge in Genoa that was run by Atlantia’s Autostrade per l’Italia unit.

After an urgent meeting on the issue between Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and two ministers on Tuesday night, several Italian newspapers reported on Wednesday that an agreement was at hand.

But sources with knowledge of the matter poured cold water on the possibility of a breakthrough in the coming hours that would allow Atlantia to keep its licence until 2038.

Autostrade has not received any information so far from the ruling coalition regarding a potential deal, a source close to company said, adding that it would be ready to review a reasonable government proposal.

A government source told Reuters there were still hurdles to overcome.

“The sticking points are always the same,” the source said, adding that the 5-Star Movement, part of Italy’s ruling coalition, was irked by the fact that none of its officials were involved in Tuesday’s meeting.

5-Star has led calls for revoking the licence but its governing ally, the centre-left PD party, has urged caution fearing a multi-billion compensation claim against the state.

Source said negotiations could drag on into July, adding Rome was pressing for Atlantia to cut its 88% stake in Autostrade below 50%.

The government drafted a plan under which infrastructure fund F2i and state lender CDP would split evenly between them a majority stake in Autostrade, one of the sources said.

The ruling parties also asked Atlantia to accept stricter rules on motorway tariffs and pay a 3.4-billion euro ($3.8 billion) compensation for the Genoa disaster.

Additional reporting by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Keith Weir

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