Regulators look into sale of shares by BlackRock in Saipem

David Hellier
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INVESTIGATORS are looking into whether there was any market abuse surrounding a controversial share sale by the institutional fund manager BlackRock last month.

Both the Italian financial regulator Consob and the FSA are looking into the circumstances behind the share sale in the Italian oil services group Saipem and a subsequent profits warning less than 24 hours later that wiped a third from the company’s market capitalisation.

Consob said yesterday: “There is an investigation going on which is going to look into every detail surrounding this transaction. But we can not make any further comment since a market abuse investigation must be conducted in private.”

Bank of America Merrill Lynch sold a 2.3 per cent stake, or around €315m of shares, in Saipem on 28 January.

Massachusetts Financial Services, a US investment fund, bought a two per cent stake in the company at around the same time, according to documents.

Yesterday Ian Mackenzie, the group’s managing director for European Relationship Management, said: “This stock is one that we are looking at quite hard but I am not prepared to make any public comment on it at this stage.”

Investigators want to know whether anybody was made aware of the imminent profits warning and whether that prompted the share sale.