Prodi Returns To Iri

Italy's multibillion-dollar privatization program stands to get a big boost from the appointment of Romano Prodi as chairman of Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI), the loss-plagued state holding company. Prodi held the top job once before, from 1982 to 1989, at IRI, a diversified group with $53 billion in sales. He now succeeds Franco Nobili, who was arrested on corruption charges. Prodi favors a broad sell-off of key IRI holdings, such as telecommunications group STET and engineering giant Finmeccanica. For two years, the country's political parties have held up moves to privatize parts of Italy's vast public sector, keeping tight control of the state-owned companies. With the parties reeling from the country's huge corruption scandal, Prodi will have a freer hand.

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