Lower takeover threshold for Italian companies moves closer

ROME, July 24 Thu Jul 24, 2014 1:44pm EDT

ROME, July 24 (Reuters) - An Italian Senate committee approved an amendment to Italian company law on Thursday, paving the way for a possible lowering of the ownership threshold at which a shareholder is compelled to launch a full takeover bid.

The amendment proposed by Massimo Mucchetti, a senator from the ruling Democratic Party, is designed to deter a single large shareholder in a company with a fragmented ownership from building a stake that would secure control over management.

Mucchetti failed to introduce a similar measure last year after Spain's Telefonica received the green light for a gradual takeover of Telecom Italia's controlling shareholder, igniting concern among some politicians and trade unions over job losses, national security and future investment.

Under current Italian law, a shareholder owning 30 percent of a listed company is obliged to make a full bid. The proposed change would lower the threshold to 25 percent, provided there is no other shareholder with a larger stake.

The proposed alteration, which would apply only to companies that have annual sales of more than 300 million euros ($404 million) or a market capitalisation above 500 million euros, will now be examined by the whole Senate.

If approved by the Senate, it must then be passed by the Chamber of Deputies before becoming law.

Italy's top two banks Unicredit and Intesa Sanpaolo, along with insurer Generali, are among groups with fragmented ownership that could be affected by the proposed rule change. ($1 = 0.7427 Euros)

(Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte; Writing by Isla Binnie; Editing by David Goodman)

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