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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 February 2006, 10:58 GMT
BNP's Italy bid gets key backing
Front of BNL branch in Rome
BNP's move for the Italian bank came as a shock to many observers
France's BNP Paribas has moved closer to buying Italian bank Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL) after it won support from the board and key shareholders.

BNP bid 9bn euros ($11bn) for BNL on Friday as the lender tries to become the biggest bank in the eurozone.

If successful, the sale would end a period of Italian banking mergers that have damaged the nation's credibility.

A number of scandals have sprung up around the takeover of BNL and another Italian lender, Banca Antonveneta.

The head of the Bank of Italy, Antonio Fazio, was forced to resign following allegations that he favoured a domestic buyer in a tussle for control over Banca Antonveneta.

He has denied any wrongdoing.

'Not hostile'

However since then, Antonventa was bought by Dutch bank ABN Amro, and the Bank of Italy blocked an earlier bid for BNL by Italian insurer Unipol.

That has cleared the way for France's BNP to table its bid for BNL, a move the Italian lender said was "not hostile and values all shareholders in the same way".

Unipol, which owns a 10% stake in BNL, has given its backing to the BNP bid, giving the French company a stake of close to 48%.

Insurance company Generali owns 8.7% of BNL and also has said it will support the bid.

The move by BNP shocked many observers who had expected Spanish lender BBVA, which had initially been up against Unipol in the first round of bidding, to return to the fray.

Italy turns down Unipol's BNL bid
11 Jan 06 |  Business
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30 Dec 05 |  Business
Italy chooses successor to Fazio
29 Dec 05 |  Business
Italy watchdog approves BNL bid
14 Sep 05 |  Business
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05 Sep 05 |  Business
BBVA gives up on Italy bank bid
22 Jul 05 |  Business

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