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(Bloomberg) -- After his tactical victory in the Italian presidential election on Jan. 31, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is back to business.
International investors are meeting with officials of his government and corporate executives in a two-day closed-door conference starting today in Rome to lure investment as Italy prepares to sell state assets to shrink the country’s 2 trillion euros ($2.26 trillion) debt, the euro area’s second-largest.
The line-up of investors at the gathering organized by UniCredit SpA includes the likes of Blackrock Inc, Wellington Management, Banque Pictet, Egerton Capital, Amber Capital and Edmond de Rothschild, according to a draft of the program obtained by Bloomberg News. Executives of Finmeccanica SpA, Atlantia SpA and Telecom Italia will meet with the investors at the conference, which will also be attended by representatives of state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti and the Treasury.
“Renzi has started to light up the show for international investors who are quite disappointed by his first year in government, which he mainly spent discussing constitutional and institutional reforms,” said Francesco Galietti, founder of research firm Policy Sonar in Rome by phone. “Let’s get ready to see something.”
Having been strengthened by the election of his candidate for president Sergio Mattarella on Jan. 31, Renzi is now seeking to speed his economic and institutional reforms agenda aimed at pulling Italy out of the longest recession since World War II. Privatization is a key goal for the premier.
“It is very important that he moves things along on the privatizations, not only to capitalize on the success of the presidential election, but also to put clear blue water between Italy and Greece,” said Marc Ostwald, a London-based strategist at ADM Investor Services International Ltd.
Renzi, 40, took the show on the road last month when he presented investors at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, his record on the economic front.
A slide with the biggest changes put in place by his government listed labor market reforms and measures to boost competitiveness, according to a copy of the presentation obtained by Bloomberg News.
“There is an incredible window of opportunity in Italy,” Renzi said in his Jan. 21 Davos speech. The government showed the meeting a promotional video called “Italy the extraordinary commonplace” aimed at “boosting foreign investments,” according to the government’s website.
The video, which got over 500,000 viewers on YouTube, was aimed at dispelling stereotypes about Italians.
The Rome conference is entitled “Through Structural Reforms, Privatizations, National Champions” and is one of many meetings for investors, companies and government officials.
Next week, a group of senior Italian executives and a minister from Renzi’s government are scheduled to travel to New York to meet U.S. investors. Officials from the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority will meet top Italian executives in Rome to discuss investments in the country’s infrastructure Feb.17, according to a person familiar with the plans.
Renzi is counting on privatization to help slash debt. The Treasury owns about 30 percent of Rome-based Eni SpA, the country’s biggest oil company, through direct and indirect stakes. It also owns 31 percent of Enel SpA, the nation’s biggest utility. In April, the government said it planned to sell stakes in state-owned companies worth about 0.7 percent of gross domestic product between 2015 and 2018.
“An early start will be needed if the government is to try and meet the ambitious targets of its privatization program,” said Marco Brancolini, a London-based bond analyst at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc. “Aside from the headline grabbing deals, the success of the strategy will be measured at the local level, where asset sales can support investment.”
Italy plans to sell 40 percent of postal service Poste Italiane SpA and 49 percent of air-traffic controller Enav SpA this year. It also wants to dispose of 40 percent of the state railways, Ferrovie Dello Stato, by next year, as well as stakes in energy companies Eni and Enel, if the market is favorable.
The country has relied on foreign investors to fund growth at home in the past.
China State Grid bought 40.9 percent of state owned CDP Reti, a holding that owns 30 percent of Italia gas network SNAM SpA and power network Terna SpA. Finmeccanica SpA is in talks to sell its train assets to either Chinese Insigma Group or Japan’s Hitachi.
Renzi went to Abu Dhabi last month to meet authorities after Etihad Airways agreed to buy 49 percent of the Italian carrier Alitalia.
“The privatization plan is going forward,” said Raffaella Tenconi, a London-based economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “The market sentiment is generally favorable.”
--With assistance from Daniele Lepido in Milan.
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