* Bill was prepared after Vivendi stakebuilding in Mediaset
* Renzi said to sink bill after squabble with industry
* Renzi resigned as PM in December, seeking comeback
By Giselda Vagnoni and Giuseppe Fonte
ROME, April 12 The Italian government has
dropped plans to introduce measures to protect local companies
from hostile takeovers following feuding in the ruling
centre-left coalition, a political source said on Wednesday.
The source said former prime minister Matteo Renzi, who
remains highly influential behind the scenes four months after
resigning as premier, had pulled the plug on the bill after
falling out with Industry Minister Carlo Calenda.
"Renzi himself opposed this. The bill has been buried," said
the source, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity
of the subject.
Another source close to Renzi confirmed the plan had been
shelved, but said it was a collective decision by the government
and had nothing to do with the former premier, who is battling
to reassert his control over his divided Democratic Party (PD).
"There is no friction in the government. Everyone agreed.
You cannot introduce a measure that just favours a few
companies," he said, specifically mentioning broadcaster
Mediaset, which is controlled by the family of
centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi.
There was no immediate comment from the government, but the
measure did not go before the cabinet for approval on Tuesday as
many had expected.
In an effort to boost transparency, the bill envisaged
forcing investors who had increased their holdings above five
percent to state publicly their final objectives.
The initiative followed aggressive stakebuilding by French
media group Vivendi, which has sharply increased its
holding in Mediaset.
Berlusconi had praised Calenda, who is not a member of the
PD, for defending Mediaset and Italian newspapers have
speculated that the media-tycoon-turned-politician wants to draw
the industry minister into his centre-right camp.
Calenda used to be seen as close to Renzi, but he incurred
the centre-left leader's wrath earlier this year by refusing to
back his call for early elections.
The industry minister has denied that his bill was aimed at
protecting Mediaset, saying it was not retroactive.
Speaking in February, Calenda said he hoped the new rules
would be approved by April, explaining that they would be based
on those already in place in France and the United States.
There has been a spate of acquisitions of Italian companies
across a range of sectors in recent years. The charge has been
led by French firms, which have invested some $65 billion in
Italy since 2008, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Over the same period, Italian companies have invested a
relatively paltry $7.3 billion in France.
Renzi, who was prime minister for two years before losing a
referendum on constitutional reform in December, took an open
approach to foreign acquisitions.
By contrast, other members of his PD party had complained
about the vulnerability of local companies to foreign takeover.
(Additional reporting by Crispian Balmer, editing by Louise