Regulators approve Olivetti's results

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The Independent Online
Olivetti, the troubled computer giant, last night said that Italian stock market regulators had approved its half-year results after suspending shares in the group following allegations by a former top executive that its losses had been understated.

The shares will resume trading on Monday. After meeting with the Milan bourse watchdog Consob, Olivetti said that its accounts, showing a first- half loss of L440bn, had met "all legal norms and general accounting principles".

On Wednesday night Olivetti's chief operating officer, Renzo Francesconi, dramatically resigned, alleging that the true extent of the company's losses had been disguised.

This prompted panic in the markets and a sharp fall in the shares of the former Olivetti chairman Carlo De Benedetti's two holding companies, Cofide, and CIR. Mr De Benedetti resigned on Tuesday night.

Olivetti shares were suspended at L749 compared with the L1,000 paid by investors, including a key group of London fund managers at the time of Olivetti's pounds 913m rescue rights issue last December.

Shares in Cofide continued to tumble yesterday, registering a 7 per cent fall in two days, while CIR slid 8 per cent.

Despite the apparent reprieve for Olivetti, it is under intense pressure from shareholders to bring an end to losses that have now reached L4.34,000bn since 1990.

Between 30 and 40 per cent of the company is owned by a group of London- based fund managers, led by ING Barings Asset Management. These funds are seeking a meeting with Olivetti's new management.