Court confiscated the shares of BPI and its allies and the Consob froze the BPI’s offer, just two weeks after the Bank of Italy had approved the request of BPI to acquire control of Antonveneta. Following this, the Bank of Italy itself suspended its approval and calls asking the resignation of Fazio mounted by inside the Italian government and by the public opinion. The whole episode led to a dramatic change in the Italian financial sector. After Fazio resigned in December 2005, the Government approved quickly a new law which reformed the mandate of the Italian governor and transferred the competence over competition policy from the Bank of Italy to the Italian Antitrust Authority.
Another important case of conflicts between the European Commission and the Member States was the merger between Unicredito Italiano and Bayerische Hypo-und Vereinsbank AG (HVB) in 2005. According to the examination conducted by the Commission, the merger had its greatest effects in Poland, where the parties would become the leading market player with 21% of the assets through the undertakings Pekao owned by Unicredito and BPH controlled by HVB. More specifically, the parties would obtain the leadership in the market for the custody accounts and the distribution of mutual funds and the second position in the market for services to household customers with market shares around 35-45% and 15-25%, respectively. However, given the structure of the Polish market and the presence of other important competitors, the Commission considered the anticompetitive effects not to be significant enough and cleared the proposed merger in October 2005. The Polish government opposed the clearance decision by filing a formal complaint with the European Court of Justice, and by requiring Unicredito to sell its entire holding in BPH. The claim was that, according to the Privatization Agreement signed at the time of the acquisition of Pekao in 1999, Unicredito could not acquire any bank in Poland for the subsequent ten years without ministerial authorization.11 This clause was meant to protect competition on the Polish banking market. The Commission regarded the attempt to enforce the “non-competition clause” of the Pekao privatization as being incompatible with the EC rules on the freedom of establishment and the free movement of capital, and it launched an official
It is interesting to note how the market was positive towards the proposed concentration. Analysts quoted by Reuters envisaged that the merger would be favorable to the Polish economy as it would encourage consolidation and efficiency in the banking system.