Autostrade deal

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After days of heated controversy and at the height of a night conclave – with the Italian executive split between hardliners and supporters of the negotiation, in the end has emerged the option that sees the State gradually becoming a majority shareholder and the Benetton family leaving Autostrade.

In this way one of the most intricate dossiers of the current legislature is about to be resolved, after having represented a puzzle made enormously more complicated by the convergence of opposing political interests, complex financial and industrial dynamics, as well as by the need to ascertain in court the causes of the June 14, 2018 Morandi bridge tragedy. The first to be able to claim victory was Prime Minister Conte, who has shaken off his reputation as a procrastinator after weeks of doubts related to the impasse that has frozen the activity of Palazzo Chigi with the end of the lockdown.

However, altogether it seems to be a favorable result for the whole government: the revocation would have implied the ability to put in place a concrete alternative for the supervision of the motorway network that currently does not exist, all the more so if to cover about half of the 8,500 kilometers under private management. Vice versa, with the transfer of the ownership from Benetton to Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) state lender, the company will remain on its feet and continue to operate, protecting in the first place its over 7 thousand employees and guaranteeing the State a participation capable of generating abundant liquidity and profits, despite reduced road taxes. The government will also prepare itself to avoid hostile takeovers, triggered by the ‘tolling honey’, trying to balance the security and control imperatives with those of investors and market.

Of course there is no shortage of critical voices, starting with the refrain whether state or ‘statism’ has won, and not to mention the ad hoc restriction placed by a part of the ruling coalition against subjects deemed unworthy of being shareholders. An unprecedented event for Western markets. Then the inevitable political rows come. This is the case of the creeping dissatisfaction among the most radical part of the ruling M5S towards a compromise that reaffirms how difficult it is to balance one’s populist soul with the needs of government.

As well as the inevitable rumors of a government reshuffle in September to settle the frictions exploded during the negotiation, linked above all to the narrative of a ruling coalition split among intransigent defenders of the national interest and those who, on the contrary, would have shown up too conciliatory with the Benettons. Tensions that will complicate relations between allies in the continuation of the legislature, something that has already emerged in the aftermath of the agreement on Autostrade during the ‘risiko’ to replace the League presidents of some parliamentary commissions or on the occasion of the approval of the ‘Re-launch Decree’ with only a small margin at Palazzo Madama. All with due respect to the rapidity with which the leaders of the M5S and PD hurried to show themselves satisfied and in agreement for the closing of the thorny Autostrade dossier.

On the horizon there is now the fearsome ESM bailout fund, which will be the stone guest during the crucial EU Summit of July 17-18 on the recovery fund.