EU’s Vestager Says State Role in Companies Acceptable During Crisis

State interventions in companies may be necessary in times of crisis to avoid takeovers from entities that “could disturb the public order,” European Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager says in an interview with Italian broadcaster Mediaset.

Vestager, who is also the EU’s competition commissioner, was answering a question about Italy’s decision to nationalize toll road company Autostrade per l’Italia SpA after a long dispute with its Benetton family owners.

“What is important is that of course the state doesn’t act like a business owner, because otherwise there is the risk that taxpayers will lose their money,” she said, also addressing Italy’s decision to takeover bankrupt airline Alitalia in an interview published on Mediaset’s web site Thursday.

Italy moved to nationalize the operator of the country’s highway network after an almost two-year spat with the unit of Atlantia SpA that followed a deadly bridge collapse in Genoa. Finance Minister Roberto Gualtieri said in an interview with Corriere della Sera on Friday that Autostrade’s debt won’t fall on Italian taxpayers.

The proposed deal foresees a gradual exit of the Benetton family from Autostrade through a capital increase under the direction of state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti. CDP may invest 4 billion euros ($4.6 billion) for 33% of Autostrade and, according to the proposal, it can choose private investors to take stakes in the company.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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