Benettons Offer Italy $3.1 Billion to Settle Genoa Bridge Spat

(Bloomberg) -- The Benetton’s Autostrade per l’Italia SpA offered the Italian government 2.9 billion euros ($3.1 billion) to settle a legal dispute over the deadly collapse of a bridge in Genoa in 2018.

The offer was announced on the day that Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte hailed the near-completion of a new viaduct that will replace of the old Morandi bridge, whose destruction killed 43 people. The proposal, filed March 5, also includes commitments to slash highway tolls and step up infrastructure spending, Autostrade’s parent company Atlantia SpA said in a statement.

Autostrade operates the majority of Italy’s toll highways but its license has been under threat since the Genoa accident two years ago. The Five Star Movement, the ruling coalition’s majority partner, has vowed to strip the company of its concession.

The dispute has whipsawed Atlantia’s shares and its business is now further strained by the coronavirus which has greatly reduced travel. The company, which reported full year results on Tuesday, said revenue could potentially fall by 3 billion euros in 2020 due to lower traffic on highways and at airports.

Atlantia booked provisions worth 1.5 billion euros for Autostrade’s settlement offer with the government, reducing its 2019 net income to 136 million euros. As part of the proposal, Autostrade promised to spend 700 million euros on extra maintenance on Italy’s highway network.

Talks with the government are still ongoing, Atlantia’s Chief Executive Officer Carlo Bertazzo said during an analyst call. The company proposed to retain dividends and offered a 900 million-euro letter of support to Autostrade, contingent to its failure to secure alternative funding. Its board will meet to approve first-quarter results on June 11.

Conte, who is struggling to take Italy out of a nationwide lockdown, traveled to Genoa Tuesday to participate to the lifting of the last steel section of the new, 202-million euro bridge. The government will decide on toll-road concessions “much sooner” than the opening date for the new span, Infrastructure Minister Paola De Micheli told newspaper La Stampa earlier.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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