CONSOB scrutinizing Hitachi buys

After Japanese group share purchases to prevent takeover

(ANSA) - Milan, March 23 - CONSOB stock exchange watchdog is scrutinizing Hitachi's purchases of Ansaldo STS shares after the Japanese group on Wednesday bought another 3.468% of the Italian rail signalling company, taking it to within a hair's breadth of owning 50%. Hitachi has said it might buy other shares too to stave off a possible takeover bid. The Japanese group contacted several investors with stakes of under 5% and offered them 10.50 euros per share.
    That offer also applied to investors who sold a total of 6.4% of the company's capital in a public offer that concluded last week. Several major investors did not sign up and took legal action, saying the initial offer of 9.50 euros per share undervalued the company. Hitachi bought 40% of Ansaldo STS from Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica last year at 9.50 euros a share. Italian prosecutors are probing alleged collusion between Hitachi and Finmeccanica to fix the price. Finance police searched the two companies' offices in Italy as well as those of Ansaldo STS last week.