Benettons’ roads firm fight after Genoa disaster

Benettons’ roads firm fight after Genoa disaster

The Benetton family has said it will fight the Italian government’s seizure of its road-toll assets in the wake of a deadly bridge collapse, in a confrontation between one of the country’s pre-eminent industrial dynasties and populist politicians demanding justice for a disaster that killed 39 people.

Investors in Atlantia, the infrastructure company controlled by the family, faced dramatic losses after the accident ignited a political firestorm. Italian officials said they started the process to revoke the company’s road concession, while the company said it would protect shareholders and bondholders.

The fingerpointing and harsh political response have thrown the Benettons into a fight to salvage their lucrative toll-road investment and protect their fortune amid rising anger in Italy.

Atlantia said the officials’ decision to start the revocation process came prematurely, “without any verification of the material causes of the accident”.

The shares pared some losses after a senior transport ministry official said the initial move to revoke the toll-road concession would be restricted to the stretch of highway in Genoa that contained the collapsed bridge.

Atlantia shares fell 21% in Milan and the bonds mostly recovered after some fell to record lows.

The Italian company has lost about €4.4bn in market value since Tuesday’s disaster.

Atlantia could get a chance to keep its concession if it quickly rebuilds the bridge, said sources. To revoke the license, the government must prove serious negligence in maintenance, “which is not going to be straightforward”, said Giorgio Ragazzi, a professor at Bergamo University.

Politicians have called for the top management of Autostrade to resign, including Atlantia CEO Giovanni Castellucci.

Bloomberg

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