Italy issues new “Golden Share”

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On March 9, 2012, the Italian Council of Ministers approved a Law Decree (the “Decree”) that changes Italy’s “Golden Share” powers in certain strategic sectors and repeals Article 2 of Legislative Decree No. 332 dated May 31, 1994, as amended, which originally provided “Golden Share” powers to the Italian Government. The approval follows mounting pressure from the European Commission (the “EC”), which had threatened to bring Italy before the European Court of Justice for maintaining laws that it believed were in breach of EU rules on the free movement of capital. The EC had already opened violation procedures against Italy before the European Court of Justice in 2009.

The Decree, which entered into force today, March 16, 2012, limits the Italian Government’s veto power on ownership changes to specific enumerated circumstances, such as when a buyer lacks the ability to provide adequate financial guarantees, is linked to non-democratic or non-EU states or is linked to organized crime or terrorism. In particular, the Decree provides different powers with respect to the Defense and National Security sectors than those with respect to the Energy, Transportation and Communications sectors.

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