MILAN, July 2 (Reuters) - Italian insurer Unipol, a top 10 investor in Mediobanca, said it opposed a proposal by an activist investor to distribute the investment bank’s stake in insurance group Generali among its shareholders.
Unipol Chief Executive Carlo Cimbri told Thursday’s edition of La Repubblica that the proposal by activist investor Bluebell Partners to carve up Mediobanca’s 13% stake in Generali in the form of a special dividend was “meaningless”.
“By doing so you reduce Mediobanca’s assets and make it weaker at a time when even the ECB has asked not to distribute dividends so as not to affect the capital,” he said.
In a letter sent to Mediobanca on Monday, Bluebell criticised the bank’s management and said it should pay an extraordinary dividend to shareholders by redistributing the stake held in Generali.
Bluebell’s move comes as Italian billionaire Leonardo Del Vecchio has requested European Central Bank clearance to raise his Mediobanca holding to up to 20%, fuelling speculation of a shake-up involving Generali in which Mediobanca is the single largest investor.
Unipol has a stake of 1.96% in Mediobanca, according to a watchdog filing.
A source close to Del Vecchio, who also has a separate 4.8% stake of his own in Generali, has said he aims to restore the leading position Generali had in Europe in the 1990s, but his plans did not include a cross-border merger.
Cimbri said it was not clear to him what the purpose of Del Vecchio’s move might be.
Reporting by Gianluca Semeraro; Editing by James Mackenzie and Edmund Blair
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