The Bank of Italy has suspended consideration of insurer Unipol's takeover bid for Banca Nazionale del Lavoro until the new year.

Approval for the takeover bid from the central bank has been complicated by legal matters. According to Reuters, Rome prosecutors are investigating Unipol’s chairman Giovanni Consorte over allegations of market rigging in the bid for BNL.

Further complications surrounding the deal are the legal problems faced by the Bank of Italy itself, after allegations that the bank favored a takeover bid from an Italian bank ahead of that from Holland’s ABN Amro for Banca Antonveneta. The European Commission is threatening legal action and the governor, Antonio Fazio, resigned on Monday, December 19.

Unipol said in a statement that financial backers are considering extending their guarantees given the long drawn out process of authorization. Unipol first announced its bid for the bank in July 2005, hoping to have received a decision on the offer from regulatory authorities by the end of December.

Final approval from Italian regulator Consob may be on the condition that the insurer raises its price.

BNL also said on December 16 that it had received approval from Consob to sell its Argentinian banking business despite the ongoing takeover battle. The BNL board is opposed to the Unipol bid.