MILAN (Reuters) – Italy’s Atlantia <ATL.MI> said on Monday it still wanted to separate its motorway unit Autostrade per l’Italia from the rest of the group, denying it was backtracking from a plan agreed with the government.
The separation of Autostrade will happen either through the direct sale of Atlantia’s 88% stake in the unit or through the creation of a new company that will own the stake and will then be listed, the group controlled by the Benetton family said.
Two sources close to the matter said the group could convene a board meeting on Thursday to press ahead with the plan, without closing the door to a deal with government-backed Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) at a later stage.
On Monday daily la Repubblica wrote that Atlantia was betting on a potential weakening of the co-ruling 5-Star Movement after local elections, adding a plan agreed with the government to oust the Benetton family from Autostrade could be put in doubt.
Atlantia has been embroiled in a legal dispute with the state since the deadly collapse of a bridge operated by Autostrade in 2018, with 5-Star fierce critics of the Benettons since the disaster.
To end the row, Atlantia agreed in July to a plan that would see CDP work with the group to separate out Autostrade before the state lender and other investors took control of the motorway unit.
The Benetton family in August also pledged to sell their stake in Autostrade after the spin off of the unit.
However talks between Atlantia and CDP on Autostrade have stumbled and the two are divided over several issues, two other sources said.
CDP is asking for a legal waiver that would shield it from future damage claims, the sources explained.
The sources added the government had not agreed to the option of Atlantia handing over to CDP a part of debt linked to the business, fearing it could be accused of granting too generous conditions to the Benettons.
CDP and Atlantia have also not agreed yet on the mechanism to adjust the price for the transfer of Autostrade to CDP, based on the value at which the unit will be then listed.
CDP was not immediately available for comment.
(Reporting by Francesca Landini, editing by Giulia Segreti and Kirsten Donovan)