By Giuseppe Fonte
ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s ruling 5-Star party believes the government has a legal opinion that would justify terminating a national motorway concession that accounts for a third of core profits of infrastructure group Atlantia, a source said on Sunday.
The anti-establishment party, which rules in coalition with the right-wing League, has been campaigning for almost a year to scrap the concession, blaming Atlantia for a bridge collapse which killed 43 people on its toll network in Genoa last August.
Atlantia denies accusations by 5-Star leader and deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio that it had neglected maintenance on the bridge. Last week, it received some support from League leader Matteo Salvini who said no one should rush to judgment before investigations into the cause run their course.
However, the source familiar with 5-Star’s thinking on the matter said a transport ministry report, still unpublished, had found serious inadequacies in maintenance and management of the bridge by Atlantia’s toll-road unit, Autostrade per l’Italia.
The source showed Reuters three pages of the report which concluded that “the grounds existed for a termination of the concession for a breach of duty by the concessionaire”.
Reuters has not viewed the rest of the ministry’s report.
An Atlantia spokesman declined immediate comment on the source’s comments.
Separately, Di Maio said in a Facebook (NASDAQ:) post late on Sunday that “as far as we understand” there were serious maintenance inadequacies on the part of Autostrade and that compensation due to it in the event of early termination would not be “enormous”.
The source said compensation would still be due to Atlantia, such as for investments made on the motorway network, but much less than the 24 billion euros estimated by market analysts as the net present value of the concession due to expire in 2038.
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