Tirrenia, go-ahead for state aid but Onorato must pay 115 million

Genoa - At the end of a nine-year investigation, the European Commission established that the public 846 million euros paid to the Tirrenia company between 2009 and 2020 are not state aid.

di Alberto Quarati

Genoa - At the end of a nine-year investigation, the European Commission established that the public 846 million euros paid to the Tirrenia company between 2009 and 2020 are not state aid.

This is money needed to cover connections in territorial continuity with Sardinia, 12 routes that according to the public agreement the company is required to travel regardless of the economic advantage.

However, the Brussels decision paradoxically complicates the situation of the Onorato Armatori group, which since 2015 has 100% control of Tirrenia through the Cin company: according to a clause of the contract that delivered the former public shipping company to private individuals, payment to the State ( € 180 million) for the purchase of the company would have taken place only after a definitive pronouncement by Brussels on the subject of state aid.

Pronouncement arrived on Monday 03/02, and which in fact seems to make 155 million euros immediately collectable, i.e. the first and second installments (respectively 55 and 60 million) that Cin should have paid with the State in 2016 and 2019 (the third installment is expected next year). The commissioners of Tirrenia in extraordinary administration, holder of the credit, welcome the Brussels decision "with satisfaction: the privatization process of Tirrenia, the sale of the business complex, the agreement and the related compensation did not constitute State aid. Some individual aspects of the transitional phase and the sale of which the financial consequences will remain with the extraordinary administration have been sanctioned - continue Beniamino Caravita of Toritto, Gerardo Longobardi and Stefano Ambrosini. Any further evaluation can be made only after reading the full text of the decision ».

Indeed, Brussels has declared illegal the one-year extension of the 2004 rescue aid, the use for liquidity of some funds intended for the restructuring of ships, some tax exemptions: 15 million incompatible aid, the recovery of which is borne by extraordinary administration, as there is no economic continuity between Tirrenia-Cin and old Tirrenia.

With regard to the payment of the purchase installments of Tirrenia, the commissioners have already a pending civil lawsuit in Rome against Onorato, which is also based on the challenge of the state aid clause: yesterday's decision, in fact, cuts but head to the bull. "Full availability - explained Onorato Armatori last night, to seek with the commissioners" a compatible solution in the context of the ongoing restructuring process "also on the basis of" preliminary discussions already started ".

For Onorato Armatori, the Tirrenia front officially opens: in addition to the credit due to the State, the approaching expiration of the territorial continuity agreement (July this year if it will not be extended, and on which the appetites of many others are concentrated) shipowners) and which in fact to date justifies the existence and size of the company (1,500 seafarers).

A dispute that is flanked by that of the other subsidiary, Moby, which must repay a bond of 300 million (expiring in 2023) and 170 million of debts with the banks: the group led by Vincenzo Onorato asked both parties for more time to deal.

The dialogue seems to be more initiated with the banks, while a pronouncement is expected from the risk funds that hold the bond listed in Luxembourg: the agreement that froze the coupon payment expired on 29 February.

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