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Italy FDI: More than 200 ‘golden power’ notifications in 2020

FDI scrutiny has seen many new developments in the last months, said Roberto Chieppa, Secretary General of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. The official was speaking at Mergermarket’s Italian M&A and Private Equity Forum, held virtually.

Italy saw more than 200 notifications under its foreign direct investment (FDI) regime in 2020, a senior government official told a conference today (3 November). Watch the full panel here.


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FDI scrutiny has seen many new developments in the last months, said Roberto Chieppa, Secretary General of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. The official was speaking at Mergermarket’s Italian M&A and Private Equity Forum, held virtually.

Italy’s FDI regime – introduced in 2012 – kicked off in a “calm” fashion, Chieppa said. Until 2018, Italy saw around 30-40 transactions notified each year under its foreign direct investment regime. Only one transaction was vetoed and around10% of cases required remedies, he said.

A big change in Italy was brought about by modifications to the country’s “golden power” rules starting from 2019, said Chieppa. In 2019, there were 83 notifications, which shot up to “well over” 200 in 2020 so far, he said.

In 2019, Italy broadened the scope of its golden power rules in the context of the EU’s novel FDI control framework. The country also extended its golden power rules to cover 5G broadband services. Finally, with COVID-19 this year Italy introduced additional temporary measures to shield companies in the economic turmoil.

Chieppa said that in spite of the current climate caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary to maintain “lucidity” in the application of these rules and to shy away from the temptation of using the golden power to justify an over-intervention of the state in the economy.

It is important to defend the value of free markets, Chieppa said, and to bear in mind that competition generates innovation. FDI scrutiny should not interfere with free markets and competition, he stressed.

Chieppa heads the country’s coordination group on golden power, tasked with bringing proposals to the Italian Council of ministers – which signs off on decisions. The official underlined that the golden power procedure is an “administrative act” and not a venue where the state has the discretion to prohibit a transaction just because it dislikes the acquirer.

The government can only intervene if there is a concrete risk around strategic assets, he said. It is also important to stress that decisions made under golden power rules are subject to judicial review, he added.

Particularly in these times when several economic sectors are suffering, it is important tor emain open-minded and focus on whether an acquirer is able to foster innovation and development, rather than its nationality, Chieppa said. To this end, it is perhaps better that FDI is subject to specific rules rather than softer, “moral suasion” types of scrutiny, he said.

The official also said that a current review of the country’s cybersecurity rules will better define measures around 5G –for which, he said, golden power is probably not the best tool.

Francesca Micheletti Deputy Bureau Chief - Brussels PaRR/Dealreporter

Francesca heads merger control coverage for Mergermarket publications Policy and Regulatory Report (PaRR) and Dealreporter out of the Brussels bureau.

In her role she coordinates coverage and reports on regulatory risk associated to major global M&A. She also reports on other EU and national competition law and policy developments.

Francesca has 12 years' experience in media from both the journalism and public relations side, gained in Milan and Brussels.

A graduate of the College of Europe, she has an in-depth knowledge of EU affairs, from both an academic and practical day-to-day perspective.

Francesca Micheletti Deputy Bureau Chief - Brussels PaRR/Dealreporter

Francesca heads merger control coverage for Mergermarket publications Policy and Regulatory Report (PaRR) and Dealreporter out of the Brussels bureau.

In her role she coordinates coverage and reports on regulatory risk associated to major global M&A. She also reports on other EU and national competition law and policy developments.

Francesca has 12 years' experience in media from both the journalism and public relations side, gained in Milan and Brussels.

A graduate of the College of Europe, she has an in-depth knowledge of EU affairs, from both an academic and practical day-to-day perspective.

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