MILAN, Sept 27 (Reuters) - French financier Vincent Bollore has decided to pull out of a shareholder pact with Mediobanca in a surprise move that could shake up governance at Italy’s most influential investment bank.
Bollore, Mediobanca’s second biggest shareholder and a key member of the pact for 20 years, opted to withdraw due to his increasing financial commitment to French media giant Vivendi and a need to keep assets more flexible, Mediobanca said in a statement on Thursday.
The move, which follows a similar decision by smaller Italian investor Italmobiliare, means the shareholder pact will now automatically dissolve on January 1, leaving investors free to sell their stakes from that date.
However, Mediobanca said Bollore, who holds 7.9 percent of the merchant bank, had made it clear in a letter sent to Mediobanca that he intends to hang on to the stake.
Mediobanca, the leading shareholder in Italy’s top insurer Generali, was for years at the heart of Italian finance with key stakes in a number of leading companies.
But in recent years it has sold most of those stakes to focus on traditional banking and plans to sell down its stake in Generali to help fund its wealth management business.
A source familiar with the matter said shareholders would now decide whether to set up another looser pact or let it dissolve.
Other key shareholders in Mediobanca include Italy’s biggest bank UniCredit, asset manager Mediolanum and Benetton holding company Edizione.
UniCredit, the biggest shareholder with 8.4 percent, has not announced any decision on its commitment to the pact but two sources recently said it was minded to remain.
The pact, which 15 years ago accounted for around 60 percent of capital, currently locks in 28.47 percent. (Reporting by Stephen Jewkes Editing by Keith Weir)