MILAN (Reuters) – Italian infrastructure group Atlantia <ATL.MI> is ready to give up control of its motorway operator Autostrade per l’Italia to help resolve its long-running dispute with the government, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.
The group, controlled by the powerful Benetton family, has given a mandate to its chief executive and chairman to write to the government by Monday with new concessions, including the offer to give up control of the unit, one person said.
Two other sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Atlantia was ready to lower its stake in Autostrade below 50% through a capital increase open to new and current shareholders excluding Atlantia.
“If the government agrees to our new proposals we can sit down with advisers and work out the details,” one said.
The Atlantia and Autostrade boards met on Friday, and Autostrade executives are expected to meet officials over the weekend to discuss tariff, investment and penalty issues.
Atlantia declined to comment.
The offer comes as Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s government has stepped up pressure over the 2018 collapse of a motorway bridge in Genoa operated by Autostrade, in which 43 people died.
After months of wrangling, with Rome rejecting offers from the company for compensation payments and lower tariffs, Conte said on Friday the motorway operating licence would be revoked unless better terms came by the weekend.
“At this point either they send in a last-minute offer the government can’t say no to … or it’s a revocation procedure,” Conte said.
The Cabinet is due to meet Monday, but a government source said ministers may delay a discussion of Atlantia’s settlement proposal until a new meeting on Tuesday.
The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, one of the main partners in Conte’s coalition government, has been determined to see the Benettons give up control or lose the licence. That has caused friction with their partners in the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) who fear being forced to pay heavy compensation.
The family owns 30% of Atlantia, which in turns owns 88% of Autostrade, with the rest held by Chinese fund Silk Road and Germany’s Allianz <ALVG.DE>.
(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes in Milan and Giuseppe Fonte in Rome. Editing by Giselda Vagnoni, Jane Merriman, Alexander Smith and Leslie Adler)