ROME, July 15 (Xinhua) -- The Italian government on Wednesday started the process of temporarily nationalizing the country's main highway operator, a company that came under intense scrutiny after the deadly collapse of a major bridge in the northern port city of Genoa almost two years ago.
The office of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Wednesday confirmed that government officials agreed on a plan that would see the holding company of the Benetton family, sell its controlling stake in highway operator Autostrada per l'Italia (Highway for Italy), which is controlled by Atlantia, an infrastructure company also controlled by the Benetton family.
State lender Cassa di Depositi e Prestiti (the Bank of Deposits and Loans) will acquire the stake relinquished by the Benetton. When the transfer is complete -- it is estimated it will take about a year to carry out -- Autostrada per l'Italia will be spun off from Atlantia and will be listed in the Italian Stock Exchange in Milan.
Once the process is complete, "we will have fairer and more transparent tolls, more efficiency, more checks, and a safer system," Conte said in a social media post on Wednesday, after the conclusion of contentious talks that started late on Tuesday and lasted through the night and into the following morning.
Autostrada per l'Italia -- which operates and collects tolls on more than 3,000 kilometers of highways in Italy -- was thrust into the spotlight in August 2018 when the Morandi Bridge in Genoa collapsed, killing 43 people. A ministerial commission found that Autostrada per l'Italia failed to adequately maintain the bridge, which was dismissed by the company as inaccurate.
According to Italian official news release, Atlantia controls 88 percent of Autostrada per l'Italia. Atlantia shares, which over the previous six trading sessions had lost a third of their value surged more than 25 percent Wednesday when the government deal was announced.