“Shareholders’ ownership characteristics of Italian listed companies: do they really matter for firm’s performance?”

BAFFI Carefin (Centre for Applied Research on International Markets, Banking, Finance and Regulation of Bocconi University) presented its new research – realised in collaboration with Equita – that studies the impact of shareholders’ ownership on the performance of listed companies

Equita and Bocconi University held today their annual event to promote and analyse capital markets, celebrating the eighth anniversary of their partnership with a new study. Over the years, the partnership has produced numerous policy recommendations that yielded regulatory improvements and initiatives to enhance capital markets.

The new paper – drafted by the BAFFI Carefin (Centre for Applied Research on International Markets, Banking, Finance and Regulation of Bocconi University) in collaboration with Equita – was presented today by Stefano Caselli, Dean for Internationalization and Algebris Chair of Long-Term Investment and Absolute Return, and Stefano Gatti, Antin IP Associate Professor of Infrastructure Finance, during the webinar “Shareholders’ ownership characteristics of Italian listed companies: do they really matter for performance?”.

The paper analysed the impact of Italian listed companies’ shareholding structure on firms’ performance as well as what performance indicators are associated to the characteristics of shareholders who own more than 2% of voting rights in a company.The research evaluated seven types of shareholders (Association, Family Office, Financial Institution, State, Industrial Group, Personal Citizen and Trust) and five performance metrics (two market metrics – stock price and stock beta – and three growth metrics – Return on Equity (ROE), Return on Net Assets (RONA) and change in the number of employees).

The first part of the analysis confirmed the crucial role of entrepreneurs, as the percentage of voting rights owned by “Personal Citizen” resulted positively correlated to stock price, ROE, RONA and change in the number of employees. “Family Office” is positively linked to stock price and “Financial institution” to RONA. The percentage of voting rights owned by “Industrial Group” is linked positively to stock price and change in the number of employees. No significant correlations were found for the other three categories (“Association”, “State”, “Trust”).

The second part of the analysis focused on whether the presence of a key investor (“fulcrum investor”) influences a firm’s performance. The research confirmed the significance of “Personal Citizen” also in such part of the analysis, which yielded again a positive correlation to stock price, ROE, RONA and change in the number of employees. When the fulcrum investor is “Family Office”, the association is positive with change in the number of employees and – as already highlighted before – with stock price. When “Industrial Group” is a fulcrum investor, the association is positive with stock beta (which implies a higher risk), stock price and change in the number of employees. When the “State” owns a stake above 20%, the association is linked positively with stock price. Finally, when a “Trust” is set as fulcrum investor, the association is positive to stock price and change in the number of employees. No significant links were found for “Association” and “Financial Institution”.

In line with previous studies, the research showed that Italian companies are characterised by a high degree of ownership concentration and by the existence of controlling shareholders – or at least a pervasive presence of shareholders with substantial voting power.The presence of a controlling shareholder was shown been positively linked to stock price and negatively linked to stock beta.

The study revealed that a concentrated ownership is not necessarily bad for the firm’s performance as the presence of an entrepreneur or a family has positive impacts on a firm’s results. Findings were in line with other studies that support the key role of long-term shareholders to reduce agency costs and provide the management with the necessary support to pursue long-term value maximisation.

In light of the paper’s results and conclusions, it is necessary to ask what the right structure of the future Italian economy is and how entrepreneurs, investors and state-owned institutions should be part of it. The public money needed to cope with the COVID-19 emergency will not be enough to tackle Italy’s structural shortcomings, ranging from the public debt to the slow construction of infrastructure, or the inability to acquire foreign companies. We need stronger banks, markets and investors, which are in search of positive real returns in a world where the presence of persistently low and flat rates put the institutional investors themselves in serious difficulty, with a knock on effect on the pension and insurance system they manage.


The coming months are decisive for our Country. Economic policy choices will have to face three fundamental variables: GDP growth, public debt growth and bank stability. The paper proposed a series of concrete actions, including:

  • Promote initiatives to strengthen the capital structure of all companies with more equity, because the relaunch and recovery of enterprises passes through a capillary action of capitalisation;
  • Encourage owners and shareholders of all types of businesses to invest part of their savings in their companies;
  • Invest in the equity of large companies and those with higher development potential;
  • Grant the State guarantee on credit only if the undertaking carries out a capital increase of a fixed percentage of the credit;
  • Increase the size of enterprises to facilitate investments in innovation, R&D and attract talents;
  • Consolidate the economic diplomacy through the promotion of large companies that interact, support and make the country’s foreign policy more visible;
  • Attract not only talent but also businesses from abroad, with a decrease in marginal tax rates for a fixed period and subject to the growth of the business, investments and employment.


Following the paper’s presentation, the webinar hosted a round table moderated by Sebastiano Barisoni (Vice Director Radio 24). Speakers included Lucia Calvosa (Chairman Eni), Andrea Montanino (Chief Economist Cassa Depositi e Prestiti), Francesco Perilli (Chairman Equita Group) and Davide Serra (Chief Executive Officer and Founder Algebris). During the webinar, Equita presented its fifth Monitor on Capital Markets in Italy, a document that analyses the most significant issues on capital markets and the performance of the most active intermediaries and investors in 2020. This year, the Monitor also included a new section entirely dedicated to the analysis of ESG issues and ESG funds’ performance.

During the event Equita also handed – with the sponsorship of Bocconi University and Borsa Italiana – the awards for the best strategies on capital market to selected companies that distinguished in debt and equity fund raising activities and that exploited capital markets to implement their strategic plans and achieve business goals

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