The Italian state owes some 68 billion euros to private companies,
which has starved firms of cash and triggered layoffs, factory
closures and even bankruptcies.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has promised to find a solution to the
debt arrears by July, though speaking on television on Thursday he
seemed to push back the deadline to late September.
A cabinet meeting this week discussed a draft bill whereby local
governments would confirm the validity of claims and the state would
guarantee the debts, in a bid to ease their sale to banks and the
Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), a state holding.
The head of the CDP, Franco Bassanini, said it would be in the
banks' interest to buy the commercial arrears as this would improve
their balance sheets as they are being scrutinised by European
"We have up to 10 billion euros for these operations," UniCredit's
Federico Ghizzoni told newspaper La Repubblica, adding the public
administration would have to confirm the validity of the claims
before the bank would take on the debt.
The role of the CDP could be key because one option would be to use
the state-holding to pay off the commercial arrears.
Under the scheme, which would need European approval, the CDP will
pay off cash-starved companies immediately, while the government
will then repay the CDP gradually over coming years.
This would spread out the inevitable increase in public debt, which
is only booked when bonds are issued by the state to reimburse the
[to top of second column]
Bassanini said in a newspaper interview earlier this week banks
would be ready to accept a discount as small as 2 percent.
Bassanini said that many of the businesses that are owed money from
the state have in the meantime borrowed from the banks. So if the
banks bought the arrears, their main debtor would become the state
rather than the private firm.
Guaranteed by the state, the debts would be seen as less risky, and
so free up capital on the banks' books, he said.
He added lenders could also use the state-backed credits as
collateral to borrow from the European Central Bank.
($1 = 0.7180 euros)
(Reporting by Isla Binnie in Milan and
Giuseppe Fonte in Rome; editing by Greg Mahlich and David Evans)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.