Italian party acts to stop AnsaldoEnergia sale to Siemens

MILAN Wed Nov 7, 2012 8:30am EST

MILAN (Reuters) - An Italian political party has asked courts to keep tabs on the planned sale by defense group Finmeccanica (SIFI.MI) of its AnsaldoEnergia unit, in a move to stop the power engineering company falling into the hands of Germany's Siemens (SIEGn.DE).

Prospects of a sale to the German engineering giant have fuelled protests by Italian unions and politicians who fear job cuts and the loss of technological know-how.

The debate about foreign takeovers of Italian companies, which flared up last year after the sale of dairy group Parmalat (PLT.MI) and jeweler Bulgari (LVMH.PA), is heating up with a general election only five months away.

The leftist Italy of Values party led by former anti-graft magistrate Antonio Di Pietro said in a statement on Wednesday it had filed a complaint with two regional administrative courts asking magistrates to oversee the disposal of AnsaldoEnergia.

State-owned Finmeccanica needs to sell assets to win back investor confidence at a time when it is also under pressure from a corruption probe targeting its head Giuseppe Orsi.

With 70,000 employees, Finmeccanica is Italy's second industrial group after car maker Fiat FIA.MI.

Siemens and Italian state-backed fund FSI are in talks over possible bids for AnsaldoEnergia, which employs about 3,000 people.

Italy of Values said a sale to Siemens would be an "industrial crime" which would transfer AnsaldoEnergia's research and engineering operations to Germany and its manufacturing activities to low-cost countries.

Finmeccanica had no comment on the move.

A failure to fulfill a promised sale of 1 billion euros of non-core assets by December could cost Finmeccanica its investment grade credit rating.

Finmeccanica posted a 2.3 billion euros loss last year.

A possible management shake-up at Finmeccanica in the face of the ongoing corruption probe could also drag on the disposal process.

Finmeccanica shares were down 0.9 percent at 3.82 euros by 1246 GMT on Tuesday, underperforming a flat Milan market.

Economy Minister Vittorio Grilli said on Tuesday the government would act responsibly over the management of Europe's third-biggest defense group. (Reporting By Danilo Masoni; Editing by David Cowell)

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