MILAN, July 19 Italian insurer Assicurazioni Generali SpA (GASI.MI) will abstain from Intesa Sanpaolo SpA board meetings until an antitrust dispute is settled, Il Sole 24 Ore newspaper said on Sunday.
The move stems from an antitrust inquiry into Generali's shareholder accord with France's Credit Agricole SA (CAGR.PA). Generali has 5 percent of Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MI), Italy's biggest retail bank, and Credit Agricole 5.8 percent.
Generali management has decided to abstain from meetings of the supervisory and management boards until a definitive resolution "to avoid tensions and misunderstandings", Il Sole 24 Ore said. It cited Saturday rumours for the story.
Intesa Sanpaolo and Generali had no comment.
Il Sole 24 Ore also said Intesa Sanpaolo's internal control committee could soon ask for clarification of claims by Credit Agricole Joint Deputy Chief Executive Jean-Frederic de Leusse that the French bank had made clear in 2006 it had no antitrust requirement to reduce its stake in Intesa Sanpaolo.
As part of the 2006 merger that created Intesa Sanpoalo the authority had required that Credit Agricole trim its holding to less than 5 percent by Jan. 1, 2008, and to less than 2 percent this year.
De Leusse told Il Sole 24 Ore in an interview published on Saturday that Credit Agricole sent a letter to the antitrust authority in December 2006 saying it could not commit itself to sell down the holding.
However, on Sunday Il Sole 24 Ore said Italian laywers for Credit Agricole told the European Commission in 2007 it was willing to cut its Intesa Sanpaolo stake to below 5 percent. It cited a document from the lawyers to the European Union executive.
No one was available to comment at Credit Agricole.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson and by Astrid Wendlandt in Paris; Editing by David Cowell)