Atlantia must accept stricter motorway tariff rules says economy minister

The ruling, anti-establishment 5-Star Movement has pledged to strip Atlantia's motorway unit, Autostrade per l'Italia, of its concession

  
The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018.

The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018.

REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

ROME- Atlantia will have to accept stricter rules on motorway tariffs as laid out by the transport authority if it wants to keep its highway concession, Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri said on Sunday.

The ruling coalition has long threatened to revoke the licence of Atlantia's motorway unit Autostrade per l'Italia following a bridge collapse which killed 43 people in the northern city of Genoa in 2018.

Gualtieri told RAI 3 television that he expected the dispute would be sorted out shortly, but made clear that Atlantia would have to make compromises.

"First of all there must be an acceptance of this tariff regime and then we'll see if the conditions for a satisfactory settlement are met. Otherwise the sunset procedure is still ongoing and is always an available option," Gualtieri said.

"There will be a speedy resolution to this matter," said the minister, who is a member of the ruling Democratic Party (PD), which has taken a less hard-line approach to Atlantia than its main coalition partner, the 5-Star Movement.

The 5-Star is pushing either for a revocation of the highway concession or for Atlantia to reduce its 88% stake in Autostrade so that the Benetton family loses control of the operator, a party source told Reuters this week.

Government sources told Reuters in April that Rome would insist on tough conditions to consider dropping its plan to withdraw the licence, wanting Atlantia to accept less favourable rules on road tariff hikes than those currently in force. 

The government also asked Atlantia to pay a penalty of more than 3 billion euros ($3.33 billion) as compensation for the bridge disaster.

A resolution to the issue could clear the way for a 1.25 billion-euro state-guaranteed loan which Autostrade has applied for to weather the coronavirus crisis.

($1 = 0.9011 euros)

(Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte; Editing by Crispian Balmer) ((crispian.balmer@thomsonreuters.com; +390685224351; Reuters Messaging: crispian.balmer.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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