What will the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, the state treasure chest, be like in the Mario Draghi season? Probably not very interventionist, selective, attentive to public-private partnerships. The prime minister did not make any statements on the matter, but in the document Reviving and Restructuring the Corporate Sector Post-Covid, published in December by the Washington Group of 30, of which Draghi is a part, there is talk of limiting government support to the circumstances in market failure and to ally with the private sector to finance the necessary balance sheet restructuring. Does it mean less state in the economy? You will see.
The orientation is certainly not statist for Draghi, who as director general of the Treasury followed the great privatizations of the 1990s. And while it is true that in the recent operations launched to build national champions, such as Sia-Nexi or Borsa-Euronext, the Treasury-controlled CDP remained in the minority. Observers expect a Cassa that works to build Italian companies that are much larger, more sustainable, attractive to international capital, which generate employment. And with measurable results, for the financed companies, in the impact on employment, size, sustainability. It is a question of supporting, in the post Covid, the recovery of the Gross Domestic Product, with objectives differentiated from those of other market players, given the public nature of CDP. And to take a further step in financing school, digital, water and railway infrastructures, with a more decisive use of impact bonds to be placed on the international market.
In fact, a new phase opens, after the accounts approved on March 31 and the next renewal of the board at the May meeting. Last year Cassa, led by ceo Fabrizio Palermo and president Giovanni Gorno Tempini, increased, the item Equity investments and funds increased by 4% to 35.6 billion. Cdp rose to 88% in Ansaldo Energia, opened the drawdowns on funds such as Fia (real estate) and Innovazione. now comparable to a sovereign fund, given the values of its ten listed: Eni, Poste, Terna, Snam, Italgas, Fincantieri, Bonifiche Ferraresi, Trevi, Webuild (formerly Salini Impregilo), Tim. From the calculations ofEconomy, this portfolio is worth 22.9 billion for Cdp today (as at 31 March last): a lot, up 19% compared to 19.3 billion on the same date in 2020. In addition, they were 25.1 billion in 2018. And even 27.4 billion in 2019 (-30% to date). In four years the value of the listed portfolio of Cassa Depositi e Prestiti decreased by 23%. Not in a homogeneous way. Eni’s share of Cdp dropped from 13 billion to 9.6, but that of Poste rose from 3.4 to 4.9 billion, as did Terna from 1.7 to 2.3 billion and Snam from 2.3 to 2, 9 billion. Privatization, with the Conte governments, is no longer talked about. Some disposals could now be a breath of fresh air for public finances, with the debt-to-GDP ratio rising from 134.6% to 155.6% in 2019-2020.
Cdp closed a 2020 balance sheet (with Sace still inside, which will be spun off) which goes in different directions for the holding and the group, that is, for the wide world of subsidiaries that brought them in the year of Covid less dividends (1.1 billion versus 1.4 in 2019). Profits in Cdp spa rose by 1% to 2.8 billion, down in the Cdp group by 66% to 1.2 billion (4.3 in 2018), the declared effect of Eni’s losses. The assets rose both for the spa and for the group (by 14% to 512 billion, 425 in 2018), where for the net worth dropped by 8% to 33.7 billion. The balance sheet was applauded by shareholder banking foundations who expect the dividend policy to continue. Among the hot dossiers there are now infrastructures, on which about 5 billion were mobilized in 2020, says CDP, with a commitment to energy, digital technology and the environment. For example: what role will the investee WeBuild (and Ilva) play in the eventual Messina Bridge? How will the digital transformation of the public administration proceed?
The three construction sites
Above all, three sensitive construction sites remain open: Autostrade, Tim, Borsa-Euronext. Atlantia’s screening of the final offer of Cdp Equity with Blackstone and Macquarie for Autostrade (Aspi), the only one left on the table, which values the company 9.1 billion, is expected by 11 April. The operation for CDP, if it had 51% of the new company to be established for Aspi, would be worth over 4 billion, a figure considered sustainable for Cassa. The unknown factor of the favorable vote of the Atlantia shareholders’ meeting remains. If the plan were to go through, the parameters for evaluating it would be the effects on maintenance and safety, services for citizens, dimensional growth.
The single network
The other dossier stranded the Open Fiber network with Tim whose value on the Stock Exchange, since Cdp entered on 11 April 2018, has halved (from 80 to 46 cents on 1 April): if Cdp (has 9 , 89%), hypothetically, if he left Tim’s shareholding structure now, he would risk the intervention of the Court of Auditors. Minister Vittorio Colao pushes for the national infrastructure for fast Internet, 5G and the fiber network are in the Recovery plan. And the presence now of Gorno Tempini on Tim’s board signals a clear stance by Cdp in the company. But the single network between Tim and Open Fiber may not be the only option. A dual network with fair access is beginning to be seen as an alternative. We must decide by June 30, when Macquarie’s offer for 40-50% of Enel’s Open Fiber expires. The agreement between CDP and Tim, supported by the Treasury, which sees Cassa as the locomotive, must still be presented to the EU Antitrust and the regulatory authorities.
As for Borsa Italiana, the process to join the Franco-Dutch Euronext list still lacks a capital increase for the new shareholding structure and the go-ahead from the Bank of Italy. Consob’s assessment is still in progress and should be completed by April.
Heritage for companies in crisis
Finally, there remains the unknown factor of the Intended Patrimony, still standing. The Mef Contributions decree is missing. the 44 billion mega fund, fed by the Treasury but managed by CDP, destined for greater intervention in spas with capital over 50 million, for acquisitions or financing. On the card effective from 25 March. Since it would weigh on public accounts, it could be limited only to companies in crisis, but even here the recipe may be less state alone and more public-private alliances.