A two pronged challenge has been launched against Italy’s opposition to foreign ownership of the country’s banks. Spanish and Dutch banking group are each looking to expand their existing stakes in Italian banks and mount full takeovers.
Banco Nazionale del Lavoro is being targeted by Spain’s Banco Bilbao Viscaya Argentaria. BBVA has asked the Italian authorities for permission to offer almost 6.5 billion euros for the 85% of BNL that it does not already own.
BNL is Italy’s sixth largest bank. At the same time the Netherlands’ biggest lender, ABN Amro, has said that it might bid for all of Banca Antonveneta.
It currently owns 13% of the Italian company which is the country’s ninth largest financial institution.
The Dutch and Spanish banks are adding their weight to the European Union in challenging the most powerful man in Italian banking, the governor of the Italian central bank Antonio Fazio.
He can veto mergers and acquisitions of Italian banks by foreign financial institutions. If Fazio does block the takeovers an Italian consumer-rights group has said it will file suit in the European Court of Justice on the basis that European law says every country that wants to invest in another one cannot be impeded.