UPDATE 1-EU gives Italy more time for Autostrade reply


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BRUSSELS, Feb 21 (Reuters) - The European Commission has given Italy two more weeks to reply to its preliminary assessment that Rome broke EU rules by placing obstacles to a deal between toll-road firm Autostrade and Abertis of Spain. "Italy has asked for a two-week extension and we have granted it," Jonathan Todd, a spokesman for the EU's executive Commission, said on Wednesday.

Italy had been due to reply to the Commission by Thursday, Todd said.

The Commission told Italy in January that it thought Rome had broken European Union merger regulations by introducing new rules governing road concessions to Autostrade and requiring financial guarantees.

Those moves, which were key to the 14 billion euro ($18.4 billion) deal's collapse in December, infringed the Commission's sole jurisdiction over reviewing large cross-border mergers, the EU executive said.

The Commission had already approved the takeover with no conditions.

If Italy's arguments fail to convince, the Commission can take a legally binding decision against Rome.



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