UPDATE 2-Pressure mounts on Finmeccanica chairman to quit
* Chairman, wife under investigation in graft probe
* Board meeting expected next week
* PM Monti wants quick solution to scandal (Adds quote, details)
By Silvia Aloisi
MILAN, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Pressure mounted on Finmeccanica Chairman Pier Francesco Guarguaglini to quit on Wednesday over a corruption probe that has engulfed Italy's defence conglomerate and exposed a growing rift in the company's top ranks.
The defence group, controlled by Italy's Treasury, is involved in a long-running probe centering on accusations of false invoices and slush funds that were allegedly used to bribe politicians.
Guarguaglini and his wife Marina Grossi, who is chief executive of Finmeccanica subsidiary Selex Sistemi Integrati, are both under investigation as part of the probe.
Both deny any wrongdoing, but with new allegations leaked to newspapers on a daily basis, the case has grown into the first big test for Italy's new Prime Minister Mario Monti, who is also finance minister and as such is responsible for the state's 30 percent stake in Finmeccanica.
Late on Tuesday, Monti called on the group's management to take swift action to address the scandal, in what many commentators interpreted as a sign that Guarguaglini's days at the company were numbered.
Monti, a former European commissioner, was sworn in last week to tackle a worsening debt crisis and restore confidence in Italian governance after the scandal-filled Berlusconi era.
Italy's biggest centre-left party, the PD, called for Guarguaglini to quit on Wednesday, while the Corriere della Sera daily urged Monti to replace some of the company's managers.
"We are talking about a state company which operates in the arms sector with cutting edge technologies. It is not acceptable for a shadow to be cast over such a sensitive industry for our country," said Luigi Zanda, the PD vice-president in the Senate.
He said those involved in the probe could not stay in their jobs for "another minute".
The stock, which has lost over 60 percent since the start of the year, was down 0.5 percent at 2.9 euros at 1258 GMT.
"Guarguaglini has to go. He still has influence inside the group and can be an obstacle to change, including in management, (and in restructuring)," said a Milan-based analyst.
A Finmeccanica board member, Dario Galli, was asked on a television programme on Wednesday whether Guarguaglini would go.
"In the next few days, the board will take appropriate measures," he said, without elaborating. An extraordinary board meeting is expected early next week.
Guarguaglini, a 74-year old veteran manager of state-owned companies, was appointed chairman and chief executive of Finmeccanica, Italy's second biggest industrial group after Fiat, in 2002.
But last May, the CEO job was handed to Giuseppe Orsi, and the two are known to be at odds over how to turn around the loss-making group, which has 75,000 workers worldwide and at one stage was in the frame to sell helicopters to the U.S. administration.
Finmeccanica also owns DRS Technologies, which supplies defence electronics systems to the U.S. government.
At the weekend, Guarguaglini's right-hand man Lorenzo Borgogni stepped aside after being put under investigation.
Three people were also arrested on corruption allegations revolving round Treasury-owned air traffic services group ENAV and involving Selex Sistemi Integrati.
Guarguaglini said in a statement on Tuesday he had "never created illegal funds nor has he ever paid or ordered anyone to pay money to politicians or political parties".
Last week Finmeccanica shares shed more than 20 percent when it said it would sell 1 billion euros of assets to cut mounting debt, forecast a full-year loss and scrapped its dividend.
Guarguaglini did not chair the board meeting that signed off the results and plan last Tuesday. When asked by analysts in a conference call if the chairman supported the plan, Orsi said he thought he did. (Additional reporting by Poalo Biondi and James Mackenzie in Rome, Stephen Jewkes and Nigel Tutt in Milan; Editing by Will Waterman and Mike Nesbit)
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