By Giovanni Legorano
ROME--Italian insurer Assicurazioni Generali SpA said Friday it bought a 3.04% stake in Intesa Sanpaolo SpA, in a defensive move aimed at stopping the bank from buying a large stake in Generali.
Last month, the insurer had bought voting rights worth 3.01% of Intesa's share capital via a securities lending transaction in a bid to block a potential takeover move by Intesa. It said Friday it has started the process to terminate this transaction.
According to Italian regulations and under certain conditions, a listed company can't hold more than 3% in another listed company's voting rights if the latter already owns voting rights equal to more than 3% of the former company's share capital.
This means that if Intesa bought a stake in Generali larger than 3%, the voting rights corresponding to the exceeding capital would be frozen. In addition, Intesa would have to sell the exceeding shares within a year. Intesa could avoid these restrictions if it launched a takeover bid for at least 60% of Generali's capital.
The bank, which is Italy's second largest by assets, recently said a tie-up with Generali was one of the many options it was assessing as part of its strategy of growth in the insurance, asset management and private banking sectors.