UniCredit Is Falling Further `Into Libya's Hands,' Northern League Says

UniCredit SpA is falling “further and further into Libya’s hands” and its Italian “roots” must be maintained, lawmaker Maurizio Fugatti, a member of the governing coalition, said today in parliament.

The Central Bank of Libya owns almost 5 percent of Italy’s biggest bank, and the Libyan Investment Authority, a sovereign wealth fund, bought a 2.1 percent stake in the Milan-based lender in July, according to market regulator Consob. Fugatti is a member of the Northern League party, a key coalition ally of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Libya’s combined holdings would violate the lender’s statute if they were determined to be a sole entity because the bank restricts voting rights to 5 percent per shareholder, Fugatti said today in Rome. He directed his comments to Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti. “UniCredit’s history, culture and business are Italian in essence, and its roots must be preserved.”

Chief Executive Officer Alessandro Profumo said on Sept. 6 that he was seeking legal documentation from the Libyan investors to pass onto regulators. The two Libyan investors consider themselves separate entities, Profumo said.

Muammar Qaddafi rules Libya as a “dictatorship,” which means the two Libyan investors answer to the same person, Fugatti said last month.

The combined Libyan shareholdings, if considered as a single entity, would make the North African country the lender’s biggest shareholder, according to UniCredit’s website. Investment bank Mediobanca SpA owns 5.1 percent.

The Central Bank of Libya last month assigned a banking license to UniCredit, which became the first foreign bank allowed to operate in the country.

To contact the reporter on this story: Steve Scherer in Rome at scherer@bloomberg.net

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