Italian Minister for Infrastructure Antonio di Pietro has come clean to Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes on issues said to have sunk the Autostrade/Abertis merger. The deal, which would have created the world's largest motorway operator, was abandoned by the parties in December last year.

In a meeting with Kroes on 5 January, de Pietro gave what the Commission called comprehensive explanations' on the Italian motorway concession laws cited by Autostrade as one of the obstacles to its proposed merger (Europolitics 3211).

The minister appears to have explained that the concession laws were not prompted by, or intended to scupper, the merger deal, but were aimed at pursuing "public-interest criteria". These criteria are now to be made public and the Commission will then decide what, if any, further action to take. The only indication of its current view is a statement that "the national authorisation process should relate to changes brought about by the merger itself, and should not be used to...

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