Cdp and the “grain” of loss-making investments. The new one in Scannapieco called to clarify the choices of the past years

Among the dossiers that ended up on the table of the new CEO of Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (Cdp), Dario Scannapieco, there is a small one, but with a great symbolic content. It is that of the role of the Cassa on investments in company capital. A role that in the past has not always been defined and coherent and that the new head of the Treasury financial arm will certainly want to rearrange. The small but significant dossier is that of Cdp Equity, the former Italian strategic fund which in 2016 changed its name to the current one and which certainly did not shine in terms of results. Or rather, public investment in so-called strategic companies has so far been a sound flop for Cdp.

Last year alone, CDP Equity regained a small profit of 40 million euros, breaking a heavy negative streak for now. In fact, since 2016, the CDP company that invests in corporate capital has collected the beauty of over half a billion in losses cumulated. A bloodbath, the child above all of the write-downs on several occasions of two major assets; Saipem and Ansaldo Energia. The first Saipem still arouses many perplexities. Cdp equity acquired in 2016 12.5% of the capital of the Eni group company, paying it over 900 million. And he did it just before Saipem collapsed on the stock exchange on the scandal of the lack of devaluations, carried out only after the intervention of the CDP. It has since been a calvary with the oil exploration company which continued to incur losses due to continuous balance sheet adjustments. In fact the operation allowed Eni (in turn participated by the CDP itself) to deconsolidate Saipem’s high debt from its balance sheets, turning the hot potato at CDP equity. A round game between two state subsidiaries that saved Eni, to the detriment of the Cdp equity accounts.

The other big misstep was investing in Ansaldo Energia. The company went into crisis with the market crisis a few years ago and began to lose revenues and accumulate losses. The group’s losses were over 600 million between 2018 and 2020 alone with the financial debt close to one billion euros. Certainly the market crisis, but here too the questionable transition from one Treasury subsidiary to another occurred. Finmeccanica (today Leonardo, ed) who sold his share to the old Italian Strategic Fund, cashing in a hefty sum capital gain, deconsolidating debt and turning Ansaldo’s fate to the company controlled by Cdp. Then the sale of 40% to the Chinese of Shangai Electric which have not followed up the capital increase from 400 million all on the hunchback of Cdp Equity. Now with the first half of 2021 things seem to be improving. Revenues rose sharply to 678 million in the half year and on gross operating margin it is attested to 56 million. But certainly the balance sheets of CDP equity had to absorb, until the end of 2020 all the repercussions of the crisis of the turbine sector and managerial choices that are not always happy.

But while the two largest assets contributed heavily to the company’s half-billion losses, many other investments didn’t shine. From Valvitalia, where Cdp equity invested in the Ruggeri family holding, e not in the operating company, which struggles a lot with three years, from 2017 to 2019, in continuous loss. Among other things, Valvitalia works in a niche sector in fire valves, a small and fragmented sector in crisis. And then again the Trevi’s financial flop, the company that operates in the underground structures of the oil industry, ended first in composition and then saved by a heavy debt restructuring. Not to mention the latest disagreements with Salini in Webuild where Cdp equity, with Intesa Sanpaolo and Unicredit, entered the capital in support of Progetto Italia and which recently voted against the rich remuneration of Pietro Salini from 2021.

Therefore disappointing results in terms of performance, but also a certain discretion in the choices of truly strategic companies in which it makes sense for public capital to intervene. Why invest in the holding (Inalca) of the Cremonini family?. Why invest in the hotels of Rocco Forte, instead of in other structures? And why choose the Ruggeri family holding company to invest in the small and fragmented sector of fire valves? All questions that the new CEO of Cdp will probably ask himself in the coming months.

Towards the break with Tamagnini – As will be clarified the role that Cdp equity has, as a minority shareholder, of the Fsi fund, led by Maurizio Tamagnini. It is very likely, according to sources consulted by il, that in the coming months there will be a clarification of the relationships that link CDP equity to the FSI fund. Reports that see Cdp as a taxable person in investment choices. The former banker of Merrill Lynch has with his shareholders the majority of the capital of Fsi Sgr with Cdp equity at 39% and Poste Italiane with 9%. Shareholders who contribute public capital swithout having a say in the investment choices of the Tamagnini fund. At least an ambiguous situation. Tamagnini, for example in 2019, bought share capital of Kedrion, by buying shares from Sestant, the holding company of Marcucci family. A breath of fresh air for the Marcucci that they were indebted to banks. Money therefore did not enter the coffers of the operating company, but ended up in the pockets of the Marcucci family.

Tamagnini also invested in Missoni and here, too, Cdp equity finds itself in some way sharing the choice. Why Missoni and not another fashion brand? The same situation sees Cdp equity involved in the choices of the Quattro R. Cdp equity participates in Quattro R with a share capital of 40% and Quattro R has invested in Trussardi, in clear economic difficulty. Choice consistent with the strategic investment policy of coffer of the Italian Treasury? All questions that the new CEO of Cdp, Scannapieco, will have to ask in that overall reorganization of the financial arm of the State that with the Recovery Fund will impose clear strategic choices and effective.

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