Italy's biggest insurer Assicurazioni Generali (>> Assicurazioni Generali SpA) said on Friday it had bought 510 million shares in Intesa Sanpaolo (>> Intesa Sanpaolo SpA) equal to a 3.04 percent stake, effectively blocking the lender from acquiring a large stake in itself.
Intesa has said it is studying a possible combination with the insurer in a deal that would create a financial powerhouse with a market value of around 60 billion euros (£51 billion).
The stake acquisition replaces a 3 percent holding in Intesa that Generali had taken through a securities lending transaction last month. The insurer said on Friday that it had launched the process to terminate that securities transaction.
According to Italy's cross-shareholding regulations, a company cannot hold more than 3 percent of another entity's voting rights if the latter already has a stake of more than 3 percent in the former one.
However, the limits would no longer apply should Intesa launch a takeover bid for at least 60 percent of Generali's share capital.
At Friday's closing price, the 3.04 percent stake in Intesa is valued at around 1.1 billion euros.
(Reporting by Agnieszka Flak; editing by Silvia Aloisi)