Italian anti-corruption authority ANAC started an investigation in mid-July that might result in the cancellation of the tender to sell Ilva, which was won by a consortium led by ArcelorMittal.

Earlier this month, Di Maio requested an opinion from the state’s lawyers after ANAC had said that the way the tender was conducted appeared to present some possible irregularities.

The lawyers confirmed the problems noted by ANAC and raised “new fundamental elements that led to the suspicion that the [tender] was illegitimate,” Di Maio said.

He added that there were “fundamental elements that would lead to the suspicion of illegitimacy of the tender. The most relevant profile is linked to ‘excess of power’.”

One possible violation he noted concerned the change to the deadline for completion of environmental measures, to 2023. This should have suggested the possibility of an extension to the deadline to allow further offers to be presented.

ArcelorMittal had originally hoped to finalize the acquisition of Ilva by the end of the second quarter of 2018 but, in late June, the Italian authorities postponed the takeover until September 15.

AM Investco, the consortium led by ArcelorMittal, agreed to purchase Ilva in May 2017.

Earlier this month, Italian trade unions warned the authorities that Ilva was at risk of being closed down because it will run out of funds in September this year unless the government speeds up the sale process.

Ilva’s principal product is hot-rolled coil (HRC). Metal Bulletin’s price assessment on August 22 for domestic HRC in Southern Europe was stable week-on-week at €550-560 ($637-649) per tonne ex-works.