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Italian Gov’t Might Purchase Energy Unit

Oct. 4, 2012 - 12:20PM   |  
By TOM KINGTON   |   Comments
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ROME — The Italian government and a consortium of Italian businesses might purchase a unit of Finmeccanica that the firm is looking to sell in order to pay off debts, an Italian minister has said.

Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi has been promising to cede non-core assets such as energy unit Ansaldo Energia before year’s end to help cut the firm’s debt pile and to allow it to focus on aerospace and defense activities.

But opposition from politicians and unions to a foreign buyer — Germany’s Siemens is reportedly interested — has slowed the transaction.

The impasse has encouraged the Italian government to consider using a state fund, the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), to buy Finmeccanica’s stake in Ansaldo Energia. Finmeccanica is state-controlled.

“The intervention of the CDP, together with an Italian consortium, to take over Ansaldo Energia now that Finmeccanica is inclined to sell it would be useful,” Vittorio Grilli, economy minister, said on Oct. 3.

“It is part of the CDP’s role to see if there are important Italian firms with a global market which can be kept in Italy,” he said, adding that CDP was already considering a stake.

Finmeccanica said in March the CDP would buy its 14 percent stake in Italian propulsion firm Avio.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has also committed to meeting Finmeccanica management on Oct. 16 to discuss how the government and the firm should react to the possible BAE-EADS merger. Some analysts have warned that Finmeccanica will be sidelined in Europe if it does not find a partner, while Orsi has hinted that government should get more involved in planning Finmeccanica’s future.

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