Bank of Italy says cooperative structures 'handicap'-update2

Rule changes will eliminate one shareholder one vote

(ANSA) - Rome, February 17 - The current ownership structure of cooperative, or 'popolari', banks in Italy is a "handicap" to their strength and ability to grow and must therefore be changed as soon as possible, Salvatore Rossi, senior deputy governor of the Bank of Italy, said Tuesday.
    The Italian government is introducing changes to current ownership rules that give every shareholder an equal vote regardless of the size of their investment.
    The decree will affect the 10 biggest popolari and Rossi said it will help these cooperative banks to raise money on capital markets.
    It is expected that outside investors will be more interested in these 10 largest cooperative banks once the ownership regulations are changed so that shareholders' clout becomes commensurate with the size of their investment.
    The decree changing the ownership structure has been at the centre of controversy related to inside trading allegations.
    Market watchdogs are probing what they have called unusual trading activity in some popolari banks in the days ahead of media leaks about the rule changes, which were announced last month.


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