7. State-Owned Enterprises
The Italian government has in the past owned and operated a number of monopoly or dominant companies in certain strategic sectors. However, beginning in the 1990s and through the early 2000s, the government began to privatize most of these state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Notwithstanding this privatization effort, the GOI retains 100 percent ownership of the national railroad company (Ferrovie dello Stato) and road network company (ANAS), both of which merged in January 2018. The GOI holds a 99.56 percent share of RAI, the national radio and television broadcasting network; and retains a controlling interest, either directly and/or through the state-controlled sovereign wealth fund Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), in companies such as shipbuilder Fincantieri (71.6 percent), postal and financial services provider Poste Italiane (65 percent), electricity provider ENEL (23.6 percent), oil and gas major Eni (30 percent), defense conglomerate Leonardo-Finmeccanica (30.2 percent), natural gas transmission company Snam (30.1 percent), as well as electricity transmission provider Terna (29.85 percent).
However, these companies are operating in a competitive environment (domestically and internationally) and are increasingly responsive to market-driven decision-making rather than GOI demands. In addition, many of the state-controlled entities are publicly traded, which provides additional transparency and corporate governance obligations, including equitable treatment for non-governmental minority shareholders. Italy’s parastatals (CDP, Ferrovie dello Stato, Eni, ENEL, ENAV, Poste Italiane and Leonardo) generated EUR 2.4 billion return on investment in 2018 for the GOI. The largest contributor was CDP (EUR 1.256 billion) and the second largest was Eni (EUR 671 million).
SOEs are subject to the same tax treatment and budget constraints as fully private firms. Additionally, industries with SOEs remain open to private competition.
As an EU member, Italy is covered by EU government procurement rules.
The Italian government committed to privatize EUR 16 billion in state-owned assets in 2016 and 2017, planning for EUR 8 billion in each year, although privatizations have not reached these targets. The privatizations fall into two categories: minority stakes in SOEs and underutilized real estate holdings. In 2016, the GOI sold a minority stake in the air traffic controller (ENAV). Revenues in 2016 were well below expectations due to the unfavorable markets that discouraged other privatizations and resulted in the postponement of the planned privatization of a minority share of the national rail network (Ferrovie dello Stato) as well as the national postal provider (Poste Italiane). At the end of 2018, the government set a revenue target for 2019 equal to 1 percent of GDP (approximately EUR 18 billion).
The GOI solicits and actively encourages foreign investors to participate in its privatizations, which are non-discriminatory and transparent. The GOI sells SOE shares through the Milan Stock Exchange (Borsa Italiana), while real estate sales are conducted through public bidding processes (typically online). The Italian Public Property Agency (Agenzia del Demanio) administers real estate sales: . The Agency has created a centralized registry with information on individual parcels for sale or long-term lease: .