Italy govt split over norms to revoke motorway concessions

The Morandi Bridge before controlled explosions demolished two of its pylons. (Reuters)
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Updated 21 December 2019

Italy govt split over norms to revoke motorway concessions

  • Ruling 5-Star Movement has repeatedly blamed Atlantia for Morandi bridge disaster last year

ROME: Italy’s government failed to agree on Saturday on a law that would make it easier and less costly to revoke concessions to operate motorways, a sign of division among the ruling parties on how to handle the aftermath of a fatal road bridge collapse last year.

A government minister who did not want to be named said after a five-hour Cabinet meeting that the government had provisionally approved a document, but measures still needed to be agreed on before it becomes definitive.

The decree being considered says that state-owned roadway company ANAS will temporarily manage motorways if an operator has its concession revoked, a draft document seen by Reuters shows.

It also considerably reduces the amounts the government must pay to a toll road company if a concession is revoked due to shortcomings on the part of the operator.

The ruling 5-Star Movement has repeatedly blamed Atlantia, a company controlled by the Benetton family, for the disaster caused by the collapse of the Morandi bridge in Genoa last year, in which 43 people were killed. The bridge was operated by Atlantia road unit Autostrade per l’Italia. Atlantia has denied any wrongdoing and said it carried out maintenance of the bridge as required by the contract.

The decree does not mention Atlantia, but a government source told Reuters that the measures could be applied to it.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said this month a decision on whether to revoke Atlantia’s motorway concession would be taken by the end of the year.

The fate of the concession has been a source of disagreement between 5-Star and its center-left allies, the Democratic Party (PD) and Italia Viva (IV).

Sources for the PD party said earlier this month that re-negotiating the concession would present fewer risks for state coffers than revoking the concession and potentially triggering a lengthy legal battle.

The draft decree says that if the concession is revoked due to shortcomings on the part of the operator, the state will have to pay the company only an amount equal to the value of the investments made in the highway network minus any compensation for the damages caused by mismanagement.

Such a scheme would result in a compensation lower than the €15-20 billion calculated by financial analysts on the basis of the current contracts between the government and Atlantia’s Autostrade per l’Italia.

MoU signed to facilitate investment in Saudi Arabia

Updated 22 min 43 sec ago

MoU signed to facilitate investment in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) and the Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to step up cooperation, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday.

Under the MoU, the two authorities will establish a joint working group to boost cooperation in several areas including facilitation provided to investors, conducting economic studies of the market, building partnerships with commercial and industrial bodies and local companies, launching businesses, promoting the ease of doing business, providing logistic support, participating in local and international exhibitions, forums and special visits and exchanging knowledge and information.

All this will predominantly be in aid of attracting local and foreign investors. 

“SAGIA believes in the importance of such cooperation that can unify and multiply the efforts in a way that sets the world’s attention on the Kingdom’s cultural and heritage treasures and investment opportunities,” said SAGIA Gov. Ibrahim Al-Omar.

“This is done through close cooperation with DGDA to highlight these opportunities and market them internationally and locally. This MoU is a step in the right direction to achieve the objectives and directives of both bodies.”

Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of the DGDA, said: “Cooperating with SAGIA is one of the most important international investment motors to attract local and international investments to the Kingdom. This comes at a time where developing the Kingdom’s investment infrastructure is found within the objectives of its Vision 2030.

“At DGDA, we aim at attracting the best technologies and regional and international investments to the Kingdom. This will contribute to the improvement of the local economy and promote our objectives seeking to turn Diriyah into the Kingdom’s gem and an international economic tourist destination,” he added.