Italy seeks powers to ring fence Finmeccanica defence assets


Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said he was seeking special powers to safeguard the country’s strategic defence industry assets, which are owned by state-controlled military contractor Finmeccanica.

The powers will apply to industries that are “in the essential interest of defending national security” and will have to be reviewed by the “relevant authorities” before they are adopted, a government statement said.

The measures should not interfere with Finmeccanica’s plans to raise 1 billion euros ($1.23 billion) by selling non-core units in the transport and energy industries, two political sources said, Reuters reports.

The new rules, passed during a Cabinet meeting in Rome, are a further step towards limiting what were known as “golden share” powers to veto ownership changes at certain Italian companies and will be used on a “case by case” basis, the statement said.

Italy passed a new law in May to comply with European Union competition regulations that required the government to specify the industries the state intends to shield from takeover or sale with specific decrees like the one issued on Friday.

One of the sources said the veto powers will embrace assets held by Finmeccanica subsidiaries including aerospace company Alenia, helicopter maker AgustaWestland, defence electronics maker Selex Galileo, satellite firm Telespazio, weapons maker Oto Melara and torpedo manufacturer Wass.

Also affected are aerospace engines maker Avio, controlled by private equity fund Cinven, and ship builder Fincantieri.

Finmeccanica, 30 percent owned by the state, wants to sell its Ansaldo Energia energy unit and its AnsaldoBreda and Ansaldo STS rail companies to focus on its core aerospace and defence businesses and cut debt.

Germany’s Siemens is in talks to buy a stake in Ansaldo Energia, while Japan’s Hitachi is carrying out due diligence for AnsaldoBreda and possibly Ansaldo STS.