Impregilo investors probed for market rigging: source

MILAN Tue Nov 20, 2012 1:33pm EST

MILAN (Reuters) - Two investors in Italy's biggest builder Impregilo IPGI.MI have been put under investigation on allegations of market-rigging for their role in a change of control at the company, a judicial source said on Tuesday.

Italian construction group Salini took control of its biggest competitor at a shareholder meeting in July after months of battling with rival investor Gavio.

The source said Pietro Salini, head of the namesake family-owned construction group, was among those under investigation, along with the co-founder of investment fund Amber Capital Joseph Oughourlian.

Also under investigation was Amber's Italian representative Umberto Mosetti.

The probe, led by prosecutor Isidoro Palma, follows a complaint to market regulator Consob by Gavio, which previously controlled the company's board, over an alleged hidden shareholder pact to win control of Impregilo.

The vote of Amber was decisive for Salini to obtain the majority required at the July shareholder meeting and install its own board.

Pietro Salini said in an emailed comment that the change of control in Impregilo had been fully transparent. He added the legal moves by the Gavio group were damaging all Impregilo investors and the company's international reputation.

Amber Capital could not be immediately reached for comment.

Earlier in November, a Milan court had rejected an appeal by Gavio against the appointment in July of the Salini-backed board.

The legal battle between the Gavio and Salini groups, each holding nearly 30 percent of Impregilo, could distract management at a time when the construction industry faces a broad economic slowdown.

Impregilo, which is selling down its stake in Brazilian motorway subsidiary EcoRodovias (ECOR3.SA), is set to approve a new business plan in December.

(Reporting by Manuela D'Alessandro and Danilo Masoni Editing by Luca Trogni and David Holmes)

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