Italy is looking for foreign investors to create a national rail group. General Electric has been identified as the best partner, although other options might be considered by a government that is now focusing on how to help another sector, which has been deeply hit by recession.
According to the government plan, a state-owned holding company should take a large minority stake in both train maker Ansaldo Breda and rail signalling firm Ansaldo STS, which have been sold by Italian defence group Finmeccanica. The group put these non-core assets on sale almost two years ago, when its leadership decided to sell some properties to either cut its debt (at that time it was close to Euro 5 billion), and reallocate its money to aerospace and defence.
Andsaldo Energia, Ansaldo Breda and Ansaldo STS currently employ roughly 7,000 people in Itay. Although it remains unclear whether General Electric is interested in investing in what might become the new Italian rail group, it is worth reminding that the American group already claims a huge presence in the country, where it bought the oil and gas equipment maker Nuovo Pignone in 1993, during one of recent Italian rounds of privatisations.
However, General Electric is not the only interested buyer for now. According to Reuters, Hitachi Rail is also considering Finmeccanica's assets. Actually, the main problem is that Italy has not yet released enough details about its new rail project, while trade unions are already showing their concerns about possible job cuts, a loss of technological know-how and a consequent reduction of investments in the sector. Finally, Italian unions Fim-Cisl, Uilm and the hard-line Fiom-Cgil clarified in separate statements that state railway company Ferrovie dello Stato should take a leading role in the project, as well as train maker Firema, which is currently under special administration, should be protected by the new group.