MILAN (Reuters) – A top Italian court said on Wednesday a law excluding Benetton-led Atlantia <ATL.MI> from reconstruction work on a bridge it operated which collapsed in 2018, killing 43 people, was lawful.
The ruling comes as pressure grows on the Italian government to take a decision on whether to revoke Atlantia unit Autostrade per l’Italia’s concession to run motorways in Italy.
Rome has been threatening to strip Autostrade of its lucrative tollroad licence since the fatal collapse of the bridge in Genoa nearly two years ago.
At the end of 2018 the government introduced legislation to keep Autostrade out of the race to rebuild the bridge, prompting the company to appeal the measures.
In a statement on Wednesday, Italy’s Constitutional Court said it was not unlawful for the government to exclude Autostrade from the reconstruction work.
“The decision of the legislator not to entrust Autostrade with the rebuilding of the bridge was based on the exceptional gravity of the situation,” the court said.
A legal source close to the matter said the court’s decision had no legal read-across on the concession dispute but added it would undoubtedly carry political and media resonance.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who earlier said the long-running dispute would be settled by the end of the week, said the court ruling was “comforting” for his government, ANSA news agency reported.
Within the ruling coalition the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement has led calls for revoking the licence while its governing ally, the centre-left PD party, has urged caution fearing a multi-billion compensation claim against the state.
On Wednesday 5-Star leader Vito Crimi said the Benetton family must no longer manage the country’s motorways.
Atlantia, which is 30% owned by the Benetton family, declined to comment.
The group, which has always denied wrongdoing in the Genoa disaster, asked Brussels in June to intervene claiming government measures had unilaterally modified the concession contract, undermining Autostrade’s value and damaging investors.
(Reporting by Domenico Lusi; Writing by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Jan Harvey and Chizu Nomiyama)