(Refiles to add Reuters Instrument Code for Saipem)
By Stephen Jewkes and Chris Vellacott
LONDON/MILAN Jan 10 Italy's market regulator is
investigating whether fund manager BlackRock used inside
information when it sold shares in Saipem just before
the oil services firm issued a profit warning in 2013, two
sources familiar with the matter said.
Consob has written to the world's biggest money manager
asking whether it had information that was not available to all
market participants when it sold more than 2 percent of Saipem's
stock last January, a day before the firm cut its 2012 outlook,
the sources said.
The warning sparked a slump of more than 30 percent in
BlackRock said on Friday the decision to sell the shares was
based on "a growing wave of negative publicly available
information that was widely disseminated in the marketplace,"
and that it was cooperating with Consob.
"Insider trading is abhorrent to BlackRock's values, and we
would never tolerate it," the investment firm said in an emailed
statement in response to a request for comment on the probe.
Its own investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing,
Consob opened an initial probe into the profit warning and
subsequent share sales last February.
Under Italian regulations, BlackRock has 540 days to reply
to Consob, which sent the letter late last year.
Consob declined to comment on Friday. Saipem, which is 43
percent owned by Italian oil major Eni, also declined
Saipem, which cut its outlook for a second time in June, is
embroiled in a corruption probe over allegations it paid bribes
to win contracts in Algeria. Saipem has denied any wrongdoing.
News of that probe, which emerged in December 2012, led to
the ousting of Saipem's long-standing chief executive Pietro
Franco Tali and his replacement by Umberto Vergine.
The corruption allegations, along with concerns that a new
management team could uncover more bad news, prompted several
funds to sell their shares in the oil services company at the
end of 2012.
(Editing by Erica Billingham)