On the table of the Council of Ministers together with the hypothesis of revocation of the concession with the corollary of the possible appointment of a commissioner (assignment for which the ex CEO of Terna, Luigi Ferraris would be pre-alerted) or alternatively to the entry of Cdp directly in Atlantia with an investment of around 4 billion, yesterday until late at night, the role of the Benettons was discussed above all. Which will be reduced (but not canceled as requested by the 5 Stars) with a two-step maneuver: the first step is represented by an “immediate” capital increase by Aspi (which certainly needs new resources as this year causes Covid it will lose about a quarter of its revenues, 1 billion out of 4) and which would be subscribed by Cdp and other financial institutions which in this way will reach 51% of the capital; then Aspi will exit Atlantia and six months to a year will be listed on the stock exchange, with a large free float (even higher than 50%), effectively becoming a public company.
Out of the new board
Cdp will become the major shareholder and Atlantia will only become a minority shareholder with a 10-12% share destined to further dilute. A threshold, government sources explained last night, which would not entitle the Benettons to have their representative on the new board of Aspi. “It will be a market operation, made in transparency, which would then leave the shareholders free to enhance their shares or increase them” says a source close to the dossier.
The requests of the premier
The premier immediately appreciated the new offer but continued to keep the point by aiming to get more from Aspi: Conte expects Aspi to accept and also the conditions of the settlement agreement “otherwise nothing is done”. In particular, he cares a lot about the indemnity request in favor of the public part in case of future requests for possible damages related to the collapse of Morandi, a request that Aspi has so far rejected asking to keep the responsibilities of the grantor and the concession holder separate, and then the president of the Council, always with the determination to want to go straight, he would return to the position also on the tariffs asking for a much more substantial cut than the one proposed. The discussion on the clauses relating to non-fulfillments which in the eyes of the President would not be negotiable is also tough.
The knot of MIlleproroghe
Another issue of friction was the modification of article 35 of the Milleproroghe decree, which reduced the amount of compensation in the event of revocation of the concession from 23 to just € 7 billion. According to Aspi as it is formulated, it prevents the company from being able to access bank credit, creating significant financial difficulties; for the Prime Minister, however, the rule should not be touched. Hence a particularly tough negotiation between the Benetton Sherpas and the government that lasted long into the night and is destined to continue in the next few days. A first response from Aspi and Atlantia, probably, could already arrive today: the board of directors of its companies, after the false departure yesterday morning with the CDM called for 11 and then postponed to after 23, will in fact return to meet this morning to do the point of the situation.
Tensions between the parties
However, the one between Conte and the Benettons was not the only moment of tension that occurred yesterday. In fact, the controversies between the majority forces continued, with Conte and the 5 Stars determined to go to the bottom of the matter until the Benettons were ousted by Aspi or alternatively to revoke the concession and the representatives of the Democratic Party, starting from the ministers Gualtieri and De Micheli much more cautious. The confrontation in the Council of Ministers, where all the serious failures of Aspi in the management of its 3,000 km of motorways were recorded in the minutes, deficiencies that came to light after the collapse of Morandi and certified by the report of Minister De Micheli, convened for the 22 started only after 11 pm and then was immediately suspended to make room for a face-to-face meeting between Conte and Gualtieri to which De Micheli was then added. The restricted meeting irritated the other members of the government who remained completely new to the latest, first of all the head of delegation of Iv Teresa Bellanova who complained about the unusual method adopted in the umpteenth night CDM.
The default risk
The work then resumed around shortly before one in an atmosphere of tension and nervousness. Shortly after 5, and after 4 different letters of commitment from Atlantia, the turning point, the broad understanding, and the mandate of the council of ministers to Cdp, ministries of Economy and Infrastructures to start the discussion by 27 finalize an agreement capable of defining all the points still outstanding. Clarifying that “if Aspi does not respect all the points, the revocation of the concession will be triggered”.
The choice on Autostrade certainly cannot be taken lightly. Because Aspi, which has already appealed to Brussels, in the event of a revocation of the concession, claims a monstrous compensation of 23 billion. And then because there is always the risk of a 19 billion default that could overwhelm all the creditors of Aspi and Atlantia: banks, large financial institutions and as many as 17 thousand small savers. It is then necessary to protect the over 7 thousand employees (20 thousand with the related industries) and avoid blocking investments. Yesterday a letter dated 13 March sent by De Micheli to Conte appeared in which the minister suggested submitting to the Council of Ministers “the viability of a settlement solution”. This is because the State Attorney did not rule out that “in judicial (national or international) the right of Aspi to full compensation can be recognized” of 23 billion instead of the 7 foreseen by the Milleproroghe. The hypothesis of commissioning the company also lent itself to doubts of legitimacy and to new appeals by the shareholders of Aspi and Atlantia. Which is exactly what we want to avoid with the public company solution.