* CEO: I didn’t contact Libyans about investing
* No extraordinary board meeting on Libyan role
* Abu Dhabi has not sought board seat
* “Many” parties interested in Pioneer
* Shares close almost flat, in line with sector
(Adds details, byline, background)
By Ian Simpson
MILAN, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Italy’s biggest bank UniCredit SpA (CRDI.MI) will ask Libyan investors to show they are independent shareholders, Chief Executive Alessandro Profumo said on Monday, after their stakes triggered concern among some politicians.
Libya’s sovereign wealth fund took a 2.075 percent stake in UniCredit in late July, joining the Central Bank of Libya as a top shareholder. The two Libyan investors combined have 7 percent and bank rules bar a shareholder from having a voting stake of more than 5 percent.
“We will ask these investors to show us the legal documentation to be able to evaluate from the legal point of view if they are independent investors or not,” Profumo told reporters at a briefing.
Profumo, who has overseen UniCredit’s rise from a regional bank to a European player, said he had not contacted Libyan investors about taking stakes and the moves were “totally autonomous”.
Politicians from the federalist Northern League, part of the centre-right ruling coalition of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, have expressed concern about Tripoli’s holding. [ID:nWEA5013]
The League, which has links to some shareholder foundations, called last month for the government and market regulator Consob to look into Libya’s combined stake. The government has said it will ensure the investment will remain transparent. [ID:nLDE67U1Y6]
The bank’s governance committee will meet on Wednesday to weigh responses to the Bank of Italy’s request for clarification on the Libyan stake.
Profumo denied news reports that the bank would hold an extraordinary board meeting next week to discuss the Libyan investment.
“Next week I’m going to be out of the country, so I don’t think so,” he said.
UniCredit won preliminary approval for a banking license in Libya last month. Profumo said operations in Libya would start in the next few months, with an initial focus on lending to small and mid-sized companies.
Profumo said there were no signs that the Government of Singapore Investment Corp wanted to increase its holding, which is below the 2 percent limit for public filing, or that other sovereign funds wanted to take a stake.
Aabar Investments, Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund, has not asked for a board seat, Profumo said. Aabar said in June it was taking a 4.99 percent stake.
UniCredit is also weighing its options for its Pioneer unit, Italy’s biggest asset manager. Profumo said many players were interested in Pioneer but declined to give details.
UniCredit shares ended 0.1 percent higher at 1.965 euros, in line with the STOXX Europe 600 banking index .SX7P. (Editing by David Holmes)