28 May 2002 – An Economy Ministry committee overseeing the Italian government’s €60bn privatization programme held its first meeting yesterday to set a preliminary timetable for the sale of some state assets.

The assets include former electricity monopoly Enel, oil and gas company Eni, engineering and defence company, Finmeccanica and flagship airline Alitalia, said a ministry source.

The government has 68 per cent of Enel, 53 per cent of Alitalia, 32 per cent of Eni and 32 per cent of Finmeccanica. The committee discussed “the future privatization programme and started a consideration of the stakes that could be sold in the short term and medium term,” said the ministry.

Between 1992 and 2001, Italy raised around EUR66bn from the sale of state assets in a bid to cut its huge debt pile and meet the conditions for eurozone membership. Since then, poor market conditions have halted further privatization. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right government, elected a year ago, has not been able to sell a single state asset.

The government plans to raise EUR60bn during its five-year term, with EUR20bn already due to come in by year-end. Analysts have said the target is ambitious, since Berlusconi stopped the sale of some state assets after he said last year it was “unthinkable” the government should sell stakes in important companies like Eni and Enel.