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Berlusconi Economy Chief Says Italy Firms Vulnerable to Takeover

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s economic adviser said the European debt crisis has left his country’s companies vulnerable to takeovers by foreign rivals and urged the government to prepare defences.

“We wouldn’t want some predator with a AAA-rating to shop at a discount price in our country while the spread holds us at gunpoint,” ex-Innovation Minister Renato Brunetta said today in a Bloomberg Television interview at his office in Berlusconi’s Rome headquarters. “We won’t let it happen.”

Berlusconi is seeking a comeback and portraying himself as the best candidate in next month’s general election to defend Italian interests in the European Union. Brunetta said the country is weakened by the premium Italian companies pay for debt compared to rivals in France and Germany. EU rules allow Italy to block takeovers of companies deemed strategic, he said.

“France, for example, knows how to defend its national champions well,” said Brunetta. “The Netherlands knows how to defend too, even Germany knows how to defend. I don’t see why Italy shouldn’t do that too.”

Brunetta declined to comment on Alitalia SpA, the Italian airline reported by newspaper Messaggero on Jan. 6 to be a target of Air France-KLM. On Jan. 7, the French carrier said it is not in talks to buy all or part of the shares in Alitalia it doesn’t own. The Italian government owns 49.9 percent of Alitalia, according to Bloomberg data.

Germany and the Netherlands have the top AAA credit rating at Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings. France is AAA rated by Moody’s and Fitch and has a AA+, the second-highest grade, at S&P.

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