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Italian government takes time on Atlantia's concession dispute

FILE PHOTO: A logo of the Atlantia Group is seen outside their headquarters in Rome

ROME (Reuters) - The Italian government will not discuss whether to strip Atlantia's <ATL.MI> motorway concession at a cabinet meeting on Friday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, as the company awaits a decision on its future.

The government is deciding whether to revoke the lucrative motorway concession that allows infrastructure group Atlantia's Autostrade per l'Italia to run 3,000 km of roads in Italy. Its future has been under review since August 2018 when a bridge operated by Autostrade collapsed, killing 43 people.

"It was not my intention to discuss the issue (of Atlantia's concession) on Friday. We will discuss it as soon as we are ready," Conte said on Thursday, speaking during an official trip to Algeria.

Populist ruling party 5-Star Movement insists that Autostrade's concession should be revoked, while the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), which governs with 5-Star, has been more cautious, fearing a legal battle and heavy compensation costs.

At the end of last year, the government passed a law decree that makes it easier and less costly for the state to revoke the concession, which accounts for one third of the group's earnings.

"No final decision has been taken," Transport Minister Paola De Micheli told a parliamentary hearing on Thursday. "It's my responsibility to write the final report (on the revocation) and, when it is ready I will share it with the government at a cabinet meeting."

Financial sources said the new law could reduce Atlantia's payout for the loss of the concession to around 8 billion euros from 23 billion euros.

The decree came into force from Dec. 31, 2019 and must be ratified by the parliament within 60 days.


(Reporting by Stefano Bernabei, Angelo Amante, writing by Francesca Piscioneri;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)