Italian Post and Railway face privatization

The rightwing Meloni government which took power in OCT22, intends to privatize key Italian service providers. This would be a breach of her program presented during the electoral campaign. In Meloni’s appearances and speeches, the party leader of the far-right Fratelli d’Italia party placed great emphasis on securing existing state assets and infrastructure in logistics and transportation. However, now she has made a U-turn. In addition to the Poste Italiane, she also plans to partially privatize the State Railways, Ferrovie dello Stato, as declared last week.

The Italian Postal Service operates four B737-400 freighters  –  credit: Poste Italiane

The State should control what is of strategic interest, but this does not mean it should close the door to private investors or attractive market initiatives, Ms. Meloni pronounced at a recent press conference. On this occasion, the head of State identified two logistical heavyweights that her government is willing to open up to private investors: Poste Italiane and Ferrovie dello Stato.

Eying private investments
The Italian Postal Services already includes private capital since investors hold 35.74% of the company’s capital shares. The other owners are the Finance Ministry (29.26%) and the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, which is controlled by the Ministry of Finance, holding 35% in Poste Italiane. Hence, either the savings bank or the Finance Ministry would have to sell parts of their shares, perhaps even both. So far, Meloni has not revealed any detailed plans about the greater involvement of private capital advocated by her government.

Large network, aging freighters
Poste Air Cargo, the aviation arm of the Italian postal services, would also be affected by the intended partial privatization. From its hubs at Brescia Montichiari Airport and Rome Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport, it serves a domestic network that includes Cagliari, Olbia, Catania, and Palermo, among other cities, and thus ensures fast mail and parcel transportation between the northern and southern parts of Italy with night flights. Poste Air Cargo operates a fleet of four Boeing B737-400 P2F converted aircraft, with an average age of 25.3 years. In view of the aging aircraft, the rollover of the fleet is becoming a pressing issue. Hence, the higher the proportion of private stakeholders at Poste Italiane, the more financially advantageous the fleet rollover will be for the state budget.

A welcome windfall
Compared to Italy’s Postal Service, the situation of the Italian railroads is much more complex, as all companies that are part of the Ferrovie dello Stato Group are entirely public. It remains unclear which parts of the railway group the Meloni government wants to sell, and what share Rome wants to keep. An “Il Sole 24 Ore” report speculates that between 4.7 and 6.7 billion euros could be cashed in by the Italian State, if 49% of Ferrovie dello Stato and up to 30% of Poste Italiane are sold to private investors. Money that is much needed in view of the high national deficit.

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