The present paper analyzes the top ten Italian state-owned enterprises (SOEs) over the period 2004-2013, after both their corporate organization and their markets have been deeply reformed. We question whether SOEs’ strategies are more profit or public oriented. The authors find that, on average, the management and performance of the Italian SOEs has improved and it holds the comparison with private and public European industry peers. Still, remarkable divergences persist among Italian in terms of performance and orientation towards markets or public values, largely depending on the intensity of the reforms they went through. Listed SOEs operating in liberalized markets are largely profitable and distribute dividends. They have expanded their business internationally, though cross-border M&As. As a result, a high share of their revenues and employees originates out of Italy. Conversely, unlisted SOEs operating in non-competitive markets are still somehow compelled to maintain an informal public mission; they provide universal services, they often incur in economic losses, which are partly covered by taxpayers.
Keywords: State-owned enterprises, public mission, state capitalism, privatization
Jel Code: L2, L33, L8