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Italy has approved a decree forcing energy group Eni to sell a stake of at least 25.1 per cent in Snam, the national gas transmission network, in the latest move by Mario Monti, prime minister, to increase competition in the economy.
Eni must sell the holding, which has a market value of €2.71bn, “as quickly as possible” and no later than within 18 months, the government said.
Eni – 30 per cent government-owned – owns 50 per cent of Snam and will also have to sell what is left over after the initial stake sale, though the government did not set a firm timeframe for that.
Friday’s decision is in effect a partial re-nationalisation of Snam as Eni will be selling to Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, Italy’s state financing agency.
The government said it chose to have the Snam stake sold to CDP to ensure the gas network had a stable shareholder able to guarantee its development and long-term future.
Eni said it had “taken note” of the decision and would define the terms of the sale quickly. It added that it expected those terms to be considered by the board on May 30. Eni will then have to find an agreement with CDP for the final details of the deal.
While the announcement provided the first concrete details on Eni’s obligation to divest Snam, in December the government approved a decree saying Eni would soon have to make the sale.
Ministers had also considered having Terna, the national electricity transmission company, buy 29 per cent of Snam from Eni.