Eurozone Crisis: Berlusconi Business Interests In Focus As PM Prepares To Exit
Silvio Berlusconi is preparing to hand over to a technocratic interim government headed by former European Commissioner Mario Monti, according to wire and local press reports on Thursday.
The Italian prime minister has agreed to step down once vital financial legislation is passed - likely to happen on Friday - but what happens after his departure is causing considerable concern in markets who are waiting to see whether the country's leadership will be able to begin to implement economic reforms and avoid a bailout.
Berlusconi himself has come back into focus with the role he plays in the immediate aftermath of his resignation.
Some in Italy, including the La Stampa newspaper, are hinting that the prime minister's own business interests would be best served by his early exit and the installation of a technocratic government - suggesting that selfish motives could push him to leave and handover to a transitional administration that might calm the markets.
Berlusconi has an estimated $9bn fortune and is one of the country's leading businesspeople, with interests spanning construction, media and sport. The value of his companies has been hit by the battering that the Milan stock exchange has taken since the crisis began, and he would inevitably profit in the event of a recovery.
An early election - which would not happen until February 2012 - would delay the implementation of the reforms needed to bring the country back on track towards solvency. A Monti-lead government of national unity, similar to that being constructed in Greece under former ECB vice president Lucas Papademos, might go some way to reassure markets that the country might be able to return to a more sustainable economic route.
Yields on Italian 10-year debt rose beyond 7% on Wednesday, a number widely seen as a threshold level that would push it inevitably towards needing international intervention. Bond buying by the European Central Bank (ECB) saw yields fall to 6.9% on Thursday morning, but the uncertainty over what happens next in Italy means markets remain on a hair trigger.