The Italian government is reportedly going to move to block foreign takeovers of what it considers to be “strategic” Italian companies.
The restrictions are backed by the economy minister Giulio Tremonti and a government source said they could apply to Italian food, energy, defence and telecoms firms.
This could block any attempt by French dairy giant Lactalis to gain control of rival Parmalat in which it has a 29 percent stake – just below the level at which it would have to make a full takeover bid under Italian law.
Italy’s second largest power group Edison is also engaged in a battle for control with French shareholders. And the French luxury group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA is buying Italian jeweller Bulgari.
The country’s junior industry minister Stefano Saglia, said the measure would “identify certain sectors the government believes to be strategic on which it reserves the right to intervene when it discovers the investors come from protected markets.” He was speaking at a conference in Ravenna.
Italian newspapers have reported that under the proposals foreign investors acquiring Italian companies would need to obtain government approval 60 days in advance.
The Italian stock market regulator Consob would also be given equivalent powers to France’s AMF to require clarification of potential hostile offers.
Italy’s tax agency this week said it was checking whether the sales of stakes in Parmalat and jeweller Bulgari were in line with tax rules.
In another move, Italian antitrust chief Antonio Catricala has asked Parmalat and Lactalis for more information about possible changes in control of Parmalat.