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Benetton holding says shocked by the road probe, hints at action

ROME (Reuters) – Edizione, Benetton's family holding that has a controlling stake in the Italian infrastructure group Atlantia <ATL.MI>, said the weekend that he was dismayed by the revelations of alleged security violations in his road operations.

Police who investigated the deadly collapse of a bridge in Genoa last year said Friday they had found evidence that the safety reports of some viaducts had been falsified and placed three employees of Atlantia-owned companies under house arrest.

In a clearly worded statement, Edizione Srl, which owns 30.25% of Atlantia, said it had full respect for the latest investigation and was closely following the case.

"Edizione … will do so without hesitation and will immediately take all necessary measures … to safeguard the credibility, reputation and good name of its shareholders and subsidiaries," said Benetton holding.

Italian newspapers said Edizione's statement represented a radical change in the tone of the previous comments, when they had always defended their managers. La Repubblica said Atlantia's position CEO Giovanni Castellucci was "very difficult".

Edizione's meeting will meet on Monday. A spokesman for the operation said the meeting had already been scheduled and declined to comment further. Atlantia declined to comment.

Atlantia, which controls the Italian highway company Autostrade per l’Italy, has been subject to scrutiny since the collapse last year of a road bridge in Genoa that killed 43 people.

The newspapers Il Sole 24 ore and Corriere della Sera reported that Autostrade could be sold or split, but Edizione's spokesman denied the reports. "This is not an option that can be considered," he said.

The three people placed under house arrest on Friday are employed by Autostrade and the maintenance company SPEA Engineering, police said.

The advice of SPEA He offered to resign the weekend for the scandal, while Autostrade, which is scheduled to hold an extraordinary meeting of the board on Monday, said Saturday it would suspend two of its employees as a precaution.

The new investigation takes place in the context of strong political pressure on Atlantia, with the ruling coalition party, the 5-Star Movement, demanding that Autostrade be stripped of its lucrative highway concession due to the Genoa disaster.

The 5-star leader, Luigi Di Maio, reiterated the demand on Saturday. "We are moving forward with our desire to revoke the Atlantia road network," Di Maio told reporters.

On Friday, Atlantia said it would launch an immediate audit to verify whether the companies and people selected by the latest investigation had followed the internal procedures correctly.

(Report by Silvia Aloisi and Stefano Bernabei; Writing by Crispian Balmer; Writing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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