After Italian Bridge Tragedy, Board Waits a Week for Meeting
(Bloomberg) -- The Atlantia SpA unit responsible for the bridge that collapsed Tuesday in Italy plans an emergency meeting of its board, people familiar with the matter said -- but not until next week.
The extraordinary meeting is meant to consider the impact of the disaster in Genoa, which killed at least 39 people. Directors of toll-road operator Atlantia, whose chief executive officer, Giovanni Castellucci, has become a focus of anger over the tragedy, may meet in a similar time frame, according to the people, who asked not to be named as the plans aren’t public.
The decision to wait comes amid mounting pressure on Autostrade per l’Italia, the Atlantia division that operates the road. Atlantia bonds are plunging, and the government has begun the process to revoke Autostrade’s profitable highway concession, while demanding CEO Castellucci and the rest of the unit’s top management be dismissed.
Italy’s Benetton family, the biggest shareholder in Atlantia, is waiting out the political storm because it knows Italy isn’t ready to take over the roads as it would be required if it revoked Autostrade’s concessions, said Andrea Giuricin, a professor of transportation economics at Milan’s Bicocca University.
“The family is taking its time because they know the threat Italy could actually suspend its concession to Autostrade per l’Italia seems to be more a political outburst," Giuricin said in a phone interview. A decision to revoke the license would be a mistake without a thorough review, given the impact it would have on markets, the company and on transportation in Italy, he said.
More on the Genoa bridge collapse:
|Bond Market Sours on Bridge Operator’s $14 Billion of Debt|
|Italy Highway Bridge Collapses, Reportedly Killing 35 People|
|Italy Says Highway Managers Must Go After Bridge Collapse|
|Italy’s Populists Always Find Someone to Blame: Lionel Laurent|
Late Wednesday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told reporters that the government will “start the procedure to revoke Autostrade’s license.” He said officials won’t wait for the outcome of a probe or a trial to take action.
The government may limit the license-withdrawal to the A10 highway that includes the bridge, not the entire toll-road network run by Autostrade, according to a Transport Ministry official who asked not to be named in line with internal policy.
Autostrade said in a statement late Wednesday that it’s confident it will be able to demonstrate it fulfilled the conditions of its concession and that it carried out maintenance and monitoring “on the basis of the best international standards.”
People familiar with the matter said Castellucci retains the confidence of Atlantia’s biggest shareholder, the Benetton family, and has no plans to resign. Rome-based Atlantia declined to comment.
Morandi bridge, built in the 1960s, is part of a major artery connecting the Italian Riviera to the southern coast of France. It collapsed in a heavy rain on Tuesday, causing more than two dozen vehicles to drop to the railroad tracks about 150 feet below.