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Chinese Takeover of Pirelli Met with Resignation in Italy

March 23, 2015
The bitter pill for Italy, which has struggled to kick-start growth, comes just weeks after the announcement that Qatar's sovereign fund is to become sole owner of a prime area of real estate in the northern city of Milan.

MILAN - The takeover of tire maker Pirelli (IW 1000/491) by a Chinese firm sparked feelings of bitterness and resignation in Italy on Monday, as the cash-strapped country prepared to relinquish an iconic part of its industrial heritage.

Pirelli's largest shareholder Camfin said Sunday that it had signed a deal with ChemChina under which the state-owned chemical giant will buy into the world's fifth-biggest tire manufacturer in a $8.07 billion deal.

It calls for ChemChina to eventually hold a controlling stake of at least 50.1% of the company renowned for its Formula One equipment and racy calendars.

Under the proposed terms, the company's headquarters and research center would remain in Italy with current CEO Marco Tronchetti still in charge. Pirelli would eventually be split into two companies, one dedicated to high-end tires, the other to industrial ones.

But Gian Maria Gros Pietro, chairman of the management board of Intesa Sanpaolo bank -- an indirect shareholder in Pirelli -- was less impressed, saying the deal was "not ideal, but where in Italy will we find someone to challenge this takeover?"

La Repubblica daily also wondered if things "could have been done differently?"

The deal is "the result of globalization and the impossibility for a family to retain control over a group worth over 7.0 billion euros, in spite of the support of the country's main banks," it said.

Cesare Romiti, former executive of companies including Fiat and Alitalia, said he was "sure there will be benefits" but spoke of "great bitterness" at the takeover, warning that "taking entire industries away is dangerous for Italy.""Italy is losing another company due to a lack of government policy which must aim to keep businesses here," he said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

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