The Dutch bank ABN Amro appears to have finally won a bitter battle to takeover Banca Antonveneta becoming the first foreign company to buy a major Italian bank. The indications are that talks are in their final stages for ABN Amro to purchase the nearly 30% stake in Antonveneta owned by its much smaller rival, Banca Popolare Italiana. BPI’s shareholders and board have agree to sell its shares.
The Dutch would then own nearly 60% of the company and under Italian law would be required to make a bid for the rest. To sell them BPI would first have to recover its shares which were seized by public prosecutors investigating whether they were improperly obtained. The six-month long saga has embroiled the Bank of Italy and particularly its governor Antonio Fazio. There were calls for his resignation after newspaper printed transcripts of prosecutor’s phone taps of conversations between Fazio and the boss of BPI. Fazio was accused of favouring an all-Italian deal, and using his influence to try to freeze out the Dutch. Fazio said he had done nothing wrong and will not resign. The issue was discussed at Thursday’s meeting of European central bankers, but ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet, said he opposed any unwarranted political attempts to remove Fazio and using national legislation to eject a central bank governor would set “a catastrophic precedent.”