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.

First Abu Dhabi Bank and Egypt Post launch services drive

Updated 24 min 58 sec ago

First Abu Dhabi Bank and Egypt Post launch services drive

  • The First Abu Dhabi Bank is the largest bank in the United Arab Emirates

CAIRO: First Abu Dhabi Bank in Egypt has signed a memorandum of understanding with Egypt Post to boost financial inclusion in society and improve customer services.

The strategy is in line with the country’s plan to improve and develop communication channels with citizens and improve access to basic services.

The agreement was signed by Mohamed Abbas Fayed, CEO of First Abu Dhabi Bank, and Sherif Farouk, Chairman of the National Postal Authority, Egypt Post.

A statement issued by First Abu Dhabi Bank said the memorandum of understanding will improve access to post offices, through which foreign remittances, salaries and pensions can be received and disbursed by Egyptians at home and abroad.

The partnership will also help the bank provide notification and collection services to customers, payments through its mobile smart wallet, services for collecting and paying customer dues, exchange and collection services for small and medium enterprises, credit services and contractual postal services.

The statement added that the agreement will build a culture of financial inclusion and awareness, while also reducing the cost of banking operations.

Farouk said that the memorandum will allow the authority to handle remittances of overseas Egyptians through its 4,000 Egypt Post branches across the country.

Fayed said the partnership is part of the bank’s strategy to boost access to customer services, whether individuals or companies.

He added that money transfers from outside Egypt are one of the most important sources of foreign currency for the country. Easing money transfers for Egyptians working abroad with First Abu Dhabi Bank via the National Postal Authority will increase the amount of remittance exchange outlets and transfers.

The First Abu Dhabi Bank is the largest bank in the United Arab Emirates and one of the biggest financial institutions in the world. Its network of branches are in 19 countries around the world, including Egypt.