Impregilo is Italy’s largest construction company by sales and is being contended over by two families; The Gavio and the Salini family.
Both families are seeking to win over Amber Capital which is an American hedge fund based in New York which has a 5.1% stake in Impregilo.
This is will be an unusual experience for the minority shareholders who have recently received a pretty terrible ride in Italy.
Impregilo will be working on the Panama Canal expansion as well as the Gotthard Base railing tunnel over in Switzerland which will be the world’s longest tunnel upon its completion, which is planned for 2016. Impregilo’s sales last year were €2.1 billion which is perhaps why the battle is shaping to become Italy’s first proxy fight.
According to Federice Ghezzi, who is a professor of business law at Milan’s prestigious Bocconi university, there has never been a ‘true’ proxy fight in Italy on the basis of few companies been listed and that ownership is highly concentrated. By Impregilo having two stakes of 30 per cent it is possible to gain control of the company, but in order to do so the votes of the minority shareholders will become paramount according to Ghezzi.
In contrast to Impregilo, most of Italy’s blue-chip companies are controlled by a single shareholder or group of shareholders. There is also a remarkably low number of listed companies on the Borsa Italiana means it is likely to be a long time until the next Italian proxy fight occurs, perhaps what makes the outcome of Impregilo’s fate all the more interesting.
Salini, which is a family owned construction company, acquired a stake in Impregilo this year and is hoping to vote in a new board at this years shareholders’ meeting on July 12th. The Gavio family, who have had a stake in Impregilo for seven years, are seeking to block this move. The patriarchs of each family couldn’t be more different with Beniamino Gavio happy to be seen on a tractor in his hometown near Milan. Pietro Salini, in contrast, takes hunting trips abroad and live in Rome.