ABN Amro says it will soon launch takeover bid for Italian bank
ROME – Dutch bank ABN Amro Holding NV said Monday it will soon launch another takeover bid for Banca Antonveneta SpA after its earlier attempt spawned a scandal that prompted the resignation of Italy’s central bank chief.ABN Amro said it controls 55.8 percent of Antonveneta after buying a 25.9 percent stake held by Banca Popolare Italiana Scarl for $2.5 billion.Milan prosecutors had frozen Popolare Italiana’s shares in Antonveneta after impounding them during an investigation into the Italian bank’s bid for Antonveneta earlier this year. They released the shares last month.ABN Amro first bid for Antonveneta in March, but Popolare quickly built up a large stake in Antonveneta. The Bank of Italy approved Popolare’s bid over ABN Amro, but wiretapped conversations published in the Italian media suggested that then-Bank of Italy Governor Antonio Fazio had improperly favored the Italian bank’s bid.After Popolare’s offer was frozen, the bank said it would sell the shares to ABN Amro.Since then, Gianpiero Fiorani, the former chief executive of Popolare Italiana, has been arrested regarding the takeover investigation, and Fazio – who denies wrongdoing – resigned Dec. 19. The government has appointed Mario Draghi, a Goldman Sachs managing director, in his place.Fiorani, who was arrested this month on a warrant for market rigging, has reportedly told prosecutors he was close to Fazio and enjoyed the favor of the central bank.Prosecutors allege Fiorani headed a criminal group that siphoned off hundreds of millions of dollars at Popolare Italiana to help fund the Antonveneta takeover at the expense of small savers.