Italian Renaissance?

To get a taste of how Italy is chang- ing, look at two events taking place on a single sunny mid-March day in Milan. In the busy Corso Venezia, British Gas PLC is inaugurating its first Italian subsidiary, while the beaming new mayor of the city looks on. The $15 billion British energy giant is keen to snap up a piece of Milan's electrical utility, scheduled to be privatized later this year. Until just months ago, the utility was a typical Italian public-sector operation: inefficient, corrupt, and shielded from competition. Now, the board has been replaced by professionals, and the former managing director is awaiting trial for corruption. Proclaims Fabio Fontana, head of British Gas Italia: "It's going to be possible to follow opportunities in Italy."

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