The Italian Post invests in its offices in the country – Europe pays too
Italy puts the responsibility for rural development largely in the hands of the Post. Last week, the mostly state-owned company gave the go-ahead for stabilizing rural areas in the presence of the most important government politicians. Thousands of post offices in small communities are to be upgraded by offering new services in the future. According to the plans, these range from the issuance of state documents such as resident registration confirmations or birth certificates to the charging of electric cars. Even co-working places for telework will be offered by the post office in some small towns in the future.
President Sergio Mattarella called post offices an indispensable “point of reference for Italian identity”. The project is easy for Italy and the Post insofar as it is paid for with its total cost of 1.2 billion euros to 800 million euros from the European recovery plan. The Post is targeting post offices in 7,000 municipalities with fewer than 15,000 residents. A significant part of the services should be available around the clock at “digital uniform counters”. In this respect, the plan should also make a contribution to catching up on the digital backwardness in the countryside and especially in southern Italy. However, the Post does not want to commit itself to the staffing.
Young people move away, only old people stay
In Italy, as in other countries, the migration from the villages to larger cities is in full swing. The aging of society is accelerating the process of rural desertification, because in many villages only the older, ever-declining number of the population remains. Stopping this development is an ambitious goal for Swiss Post. Because the 160-year-old company is not only 65 percent owned by the Italian economic and financial company and the state investment company CDP, the Post is also a profit-oriented group, one third of which is listed on the stock exchange and is valued there at more than 12 billion euros becomes. CEO Matteo Del Fante boasted last week that he had more than doubled operating profit to 2.3 billion euros in five years.
Analysts such as the JP Morgan see Swiss Post primarily as a bank and insurance company. The company, with its 120,000 employees, has invested heavily in financial services and manages more than 400 billion euros in Italian savings. Soon it even wants to offer contracts for electricity and gas. The traditional business, on the other hand, has been neglected by Swiss Post. It guarantees the delivery of a standard letter only four working days after it has been posted, and the Altroconsumo organization comes to the conclusion that 59 percent of 360 letters tested do not even meet this deadline. When it comes to parcel delivery, the private providers Amazon and BRT have gotten the same share as the post office. In the latest annual report of the Universal Postal Union on the quality of services, Italy ranks 11th – well behind Switzerland and Germany – but significantly improved from 28th place in 2018.
The Post still has an intact branch network
In contrast to other postal companies abroad and the Italian banks, the “Poste Italiane” has thinned out its branches less. In 2017, a State Council ruling forced the company in this direction. As early as 2019, Swiss Post presented a program to improve the supply in communities with a maximum of 5,000 inhabitants. Today it still runs around 4,800 branches – 37 percent of the entire network – in such small communities. This presence can also be a trump card. “No other insurance or banking group in Italy has the distribution power of Poste Italiane’s mailroom network,” says JP Morgan analyst Farooq Hanif, who advises the postal stock to be “overweight”.
Whether the role as the last public guarantor in dying communities will become a reality remains to be seen. For example, the connection with the IT networks of the public administration must be successful for the issue of government documents. Vandalism of automated counters that are open 24 hours a day is also a hurdle. In any case, the CEO Matteo Del Fante managed to get off to a great PR start in Rome last Monday with a lot of political presence and the presence of 5,000 mayors – and with it a letter of application for his contract extension. In March, the government must decide whether he can continue to remain post chief.