Italy to pass decree to defend Milan bourse, key assets -sources

ROME (Reuters) – Italy is set to approve a decree on Thursday enacting special powers to protect the Milan bourse, media companies and key infrastructure from unwanted foreign interest, two sources told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: A woman in a face mask is seen in front of the Italian Stock Exchange in Milan, as the country is hit by the coronavirus outbreak. Italy, February 25, 2020. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

The legislation will detail special vetting powers in sectors including media, financial platforms, energy and transport, according to the sources, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

It will be approved at an evening cabinet meeting, they said.

The Milan bourse, which includes a strategic trading platform for Italy’s sovereign bonds, is controlled by the London Stock Exchange (LSE.L).

The LSE said it had no immediate comment.

Analysts have said LSE may have to sell some assets if its pending $27 billion (21.9 billion pounds) takeover of data and analytics company Refinitiv is to be approved. That has raised concerns in Rome that the bourse or part of it could be sold, although LSE CEO David Schwimmer has said publicly the exchange is not for sale.

With its public debt heading towards 155.7% of gross domestic product this year, Italy is keen to maintain control over the decision-making processes on everything related to government bond trading.

Refinitiv is 45% owned by Thomson Reuters (TRI.TO), (TRI.N), the parent company of Reuters News.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a newspaper interview on Saturday that Rome could consider “a direct public intervention” in Borsa Italiana.

The European Commission set a June 22 deadline for its decision on the LSE/Refinitiv deal. Pan-European stock market operator Euronext (ENX.PA) has expressed an interest in buying the Milan stock exchange should it be put up for sale.

Davide Zanichelli, from the ruling 5-Star Movement, told Reuters on Thursday his party was against any attempt by LSE to break up the Milan bourse and said the party “would support an intervention of state lender Cassa depositi e prestiti (CDP) to buy back the group”.

Rome approved framework legislation in April allowing it to temporarily block, until the end of 2020, attempts by EU players to acquire a controlling stake in key businesses.

Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte in Rome and Huw Jones in London, editing by Gavin Jones and Nick Tattersall

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