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Genoa bridge collapse: Toll-road firm bears brunt from politicians and traders

Written by Darius Rubics

The company managing the bridge that collapsed in northern Italy on Tuesday is now bearing the fallout from politicians and share traders alike.

The government has threatened to terminate Autostrade per l’Italia’s contracts and impose heavy fines.

At one point in morning trading shares in its holding company, Atlantia, fell almost 30% from the previous close.

The collapse of the Morandi bridge in Genoa killed at least 38 people and injured 15, five of them critically.

A huge tower and a section of the bridge measuring about 80m fell about 45m on to railway lines, a river and a warehouse, taking dozens of vehicles with it.

What are the political threats?

Deputy PM Luigi Di Maio has been one of the most vocal critics, threatening to take Autostrade per l’Italia’s job into state control.

“It’s not possible that someone pays a toll to die,” he said. “Those who were supposed to do the maintenance work did not do it properly. That bridge should have been closed before this tragedy happened.”

Five Star Movement MP Michele Sodano, part of the ruling coalition, echoed this, telling the BBC: “We are ready to terminate the contract with Autostrade per l’Italia. What we discovered is that Autostrade per l’Italia is earning profits of like €4bn (£3.6bn; $4.55bn), spending just €1bn on maintenance and taking everything, sharing the profits between the owners.”

The company has been threatened with heavy fines and was told it would have to contribute to the construction of a new bridge.

Autostrade per l’Italia insists it has performed according to its contract and the law.

It says checks were carried out quarterly by world-leading experts and had shown no cause for alarm.

The Milan-based Atlantia, partly owned by the Benetton family, insisted the government would have to reimburse the value of the contract if it were revoked.

A fuming Mr Di Maio said that “while bodies were still being counted” the company was speaking about money it would get from cancelled contracts. “This is shameful, always thinking about profit,” he said.

And on the stock market?

Stocks in Atlantia on Thursday fell from €23.52 at the previous close on Tuesday to €17.33 in morning trading, before recovering around midday to nearer €19.

Atlantia had already lost 5.4% of its value on Tuesday.

It was clearly unhappy at the government for blaming Autostrade per l’Italia before even any initial findings into the bridge collapse had been announced.

Autostrade per l’Italia said it was confident it could prove it had fulfilled its obligations.

Shares in other toll-road firms, including SIAS and ASTM, have also taken a hit.

What’s the latest from the scene?

Hundreds of emergency workers and firefighters are still there and speak of not giving up hope, although they accept there is very little chance anyone will now be found alive.

Hundreds of people cannot return to their homes, particularly residents of council housing blocks that could be at risk from the collapse of another tower. The blocks may have to be destroyed when a new bridge is built.

Several people are listed as missing but officials are reluctant to link them with the accident as yet.

Three Chileans, who lived in Italy, and four French nationals were among the dead.

There will be a national day of mourning on Saturday to coincide with the funerals of victims.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has declared a state of emergency for the Liguria region, which includes Genoa, one of Italy’s busiest ports.

Its main land corridor with France was effectively cut off by the collapse.

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Darius Rubics

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