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Generali acquires 3.01% of Intesa Sanpaolo in apparent defensive move

Generali on Jan. 23 purchased the voting rights of 505 million shares of Intesa Sanpaolo SpA, representing 3.01% of the lender's share capital, through a securities lending transaction, the Italian lender said in a short statement the same day.

The transaction was designed to effectively block Intesa Sanpaolo from making a substantive investment in Generali, Reuters wrote the same day. The move follows a report by Italy's La Stampa that Allianz Group and Intesa were putting together a possible offer for Generali, in which the German insurer would buy some of Generali's assets and Intesa would invest €5 billion to €6 billion to protect Italian interests.

Under Italian cross-shareholding regulations, a company cannot acquire control over more than 3% of the voting rights in another company that has such a stake in it, Reuters noted. As a result, Intesa could still acquire more than 3% of Generali, but its voting rights would be capped at 3% and it would be forced to sell any stake above that level within a year.

However, should Intesa make a bid for at least 60% of Generali's share capital, the cap limits would not apply, the report added.

Intesa shares were trading at €2.286 apiece as of about 3:45 p.m. Milan time Jan. 24, valuing the stake acquired by Generali at roughly €1.15 billion. Generali shares were up close to 10% at €15.67 apiece.