Motorway accounting

A few months ago Gilberto Benetton invited me to lunch. I did some research and refused. I didn’t want to find myself having to pay the bill. Usually I behave like a person from Genova. I prefer to let the other person pay.
I would have found myself sitting at table with one of the people with the biggest debts in Italy after Tronchetti with whom he shares debts and jumpers to be worn at a regatta.
I asked a couple of financial consultants how Benetton was doing and their hand gestures indicated bad things.
A few weeks ago to remove every doubt about the possibility of Gilberto being solvent in the restaurant, I had a glance at the balance sheet for the Autostrade {Motorways}. A balance sheet that showed alarming profits: about a thousand million Euro, and alarming debts: almost nine thousand million Euro, investments in the motorways: the figure was not available.
And at this point I need to recount a bit of history to arrive at the epilogue about the current news of the sale-merger and the Spanish Abertis. In the fabulous 90’s the regular government of the centre left did the regular privatisation cock up, called “centre left privatisation” that is using debts.
A modern way to hand over the property of the State in which the one who buys pays very little and asks the banks for the money as loans and thus buys a good that generations of Italians have constructed with their taxes.
Thus in 1999, Benetton and associates, including Unicredit, enter the motorway business. From that moment, according to the Saturday 29 April edition of the newspaper, la Repubblica, the money to be invested in the motorway network according to the agreement with the State should have been 7,500 million Euro. The effective investments have been 2,400 million Euro. That makes about 5,000 million Euro of missing investment. Of course any driver can vouch for that.  Where are these missing 5,000 million Euro?
The debt doesn’t get smaller, the investments, sooner or later have to be made. How can this happen? What would a friend of Tronchetti do?

Sell of course. Sell to the regular European partner that allows for synergy and the creation of a massive world organisation at the expense of Italians. He gets one thousand million Euro to share with the associates including Unicredit. And he does this at a moment of institutional emptiness, without a government in charge. But what’s the relevance of the government? It’s relevant. It’s relevant.
In fact the motorway tariffs are worked out with the government as they are part of the concession agreement. If the State wanted, the tariffs could be half or even a tenth of current levels. Or they could be frozen for one or more years.

This is a unique situation in Italy. The CEO of Autostrade, Vito Gamberale, has disassociated himself from the operation. He merits honour for this.
The operation should be blocked. (Get moving Prodi. Get moving. ) As a friendly gesture to Gilberto, considering the desperate situation that he finds himself in I will let him have two luncheon vouchers for a meal in a trattoria.

Posted by Beppe Grillo at 08:03 AM in | Comments (3)
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I like your description of their response: "Their hand gestures indicated bad things." The Italian language must includes hand gestures that are simply not translatable into English.

Posted by: David Smith | May 10, 2006 05:52 AM

What about analyzing those robbery-style tolls that are gouging the drivers?

Posted by: Giovanni Principe | May 2, 2006 06:27 PM least Prodi is clear for landing now that Big Mr. B has ceded!!


Posted by: Carlo Piatorri | May 1, 2006 07:27 PM

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