Gianni stands by BPI amid takeover bid investigations

Banca Popolare Italiana’s (BPI) legal adviser Gianni Origoni Grippo & Partners is standing behind its client after magistrates seized the 40 per cent stake the bank holds in Banca Antonveneta.

BPI, which is involved in a multibillion-pound takeover battle for Antonveneta with ABN Amro, is being investigated by Italian prosecutors over allegations that it forged an undeclared shareholder pact before announcing a bid to thwart ABN’s offer.

The move resulted in Consob, the Italian stock exchange regulator, suspending both BPI’s mandatory and voluntary offers for Antonveneta for 90 days. According to reports, Consob cited a lack of information in the offer document about the undeclared shareholder pact and the acquisition of shares by third parties as reasons for taking the precautionary measure.

A spokesperson for Gianni told The Lawyer that it is individuals who may be found guilty, not the legal entity, so as things stand the firm has no plans to ditch BPI as a client. “[However], we reserve the right to evaluate the situation as it progresses further,” she added.

The Italian authorities’ seizure of the shares held by BPI gave way for ABN to install its own directors at the helm of the Italian bank.

As first revealed in The Lawyer (18 April), the Dutch bank, which currently owns a 30 per cent stake in Antonveneta, is being advised by US firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton partners Robero Casati, Guiseppe Scassellati-Sforzolini and Mario Siragusa.

The move paves the way for ABN to launch a fresh bid for Antonveneta after it failed to take control of the Italian bank at the start of last week.

Antonveneta is being advised by professor Renzo Costi, a Bologna-based sole practitioner.