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Fondiaria Rises After Bollore Boosts Stake in Insurer

Fondiaria-Sai SpA rose after French businessman Vincent Bollore boosted his stake in its parent company, spurring speculation French companies may be interested in Italy’s second-biggest insurer.

Fondiaria gained as much as 6.9 percent, the biggest increase since Aug. 9, and closed up 6.5 percent at 8.36 euros in Milan, giving the company a market value of 1.25 billion euros ($1.7 billion).

Bollore, vice chairman of Assicurazioni Generali SpA, increased his stake in the Milan-based insurer’s holding company, Premafin Finanziaria SpA, to 2.4 percent from 2 percent on Sept. 29, according to regulatory filings posted on financial regulator Consob’s website today. A spokesman for Bollore didn’t return calls seeking comment. An official at Fondiaria declined to comment.

“The stake taken by Bollore in Prefamin has fueled M&A speculation” with French players including Paris-based insurer Groupama SA, Exane BNP Paribas analyst Niccolo Dalla Palma said in a report today. He raised his recommendation on the stock to “neutral” from “underperform.”

Bollore’s purchase in Premafin may be a prelude to an interest in Fondiaria by Groupama, which wants to expand in Italy, the newspaper Il Corriere della Sera reported today, without saying where it got the information. A Groupama spokesman declined to comment on the press report.

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