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Italy's Autostrade says it won't hike road tolls Jan. 1 as planned

Italy's Autostrade says it won't hike road tolls Jan. 1 as planned

ROME (AP) _ Italy's biggest highway tolls operator by revenue, Autostrade SpA, said Thursday it will not increase its tolls at the start of 2007 as planned, as it awaits a review from the Infrastructure Ministry.
Autostrade said it opposes the freeze and will defend its interests with "whatever action" it sees fit. Any change to the tolls could drastically alter Autostrade's cash flow and value.
Italy's 2007 budget states that road tolls will increase by 0.8 percent to 1.8 percent from Jan. 1. However, Autostrade said in a statement, it won't receive the proceeds from this hike as they are destined for state-owned highway regulator ANAS.
Autostrade hopes to be able to increase its revenue-generating tolls once the ministry's review is completed. It did not say when this would be.
The government wants to re-evaluate Autostrade's toll concession, a process that would run well into next year.
Earlier this month, Autostrade and Spain's Abertis Infraestructuras announced they were shelving their planned combination because of interference from the Italian government and transportation regulators.
However, they left open the possibility of a future deal.
The deal announced last April and valued at about euro12 billion (US$14.7 billion) would have created the world's largest highway operator.