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Italian regulator probes BlackRock over 2013 Saipem share sale

Italy''s market regulator is investigating whether fund manager BlackRock used inside information when it sold shares in Saipem just before the oil services firm issued a profit warning in 2013, two sources familiar with the matter said. Consob has written to the world''s biggest money manager asking whether it had information that was not available to all market participants when it sold more than 2 percent of Saipem''s stock last January, a day before the firm cut its 2012 outlook, the sources said.

The warning sparked a slump of more than 30 percent in Saipem shares. BlackRock said on Friday the decision to sell the shares was based on "a growing wave of negative publicly available information that was widely disseminated in the marketplace," and that it was co-operating with Consob.

"Insider trading is abhorrent to BlackRock''s values, and we would never tolerate it," the investment firm said in an emailed statement in response to a request for comment on the probe. Its own investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing, BlackRock said. Consob opened an initial probe into the profit warning and subsequent share sales last February.

Under Italian regulations, BlackRock has 540 days to reply to Consob, which sent the letter late last year. Consob declined to comment on Friday. Saipem, which is 43 percent owned by Italian oil major Eni, also declined to comment.

Copyright Reuters, 2014


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