Bio-on CEO arrested as company investigated
BOLOGNA – Finance police carried out search operations in Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy and Lazio on Wednesday as part of an investigation into the top executives of company Bio-on.
They stand accused of stock market manipulation and fraudulent communication.
Marco Astorri, chairman and CEO of the Bologna-based bioplastics start-up, has been placed under house arrest. Guido Cicognani and Gianfranco Capodaglio, two other executives, have been barred from their work and six others are under investigation, said a prosecutor at a press conference in Bologna.
The finance police also seized assets worth 150 million euros.
The order stated that the examining of financial statements from 2015 to 2018 showed "multiple profiles of mendacious representation of identifiable material facts" in the consolidated financial statements of the revenue from the sale of licenses.
This false information, said the order, “was strictly functional to increase capitalisation” and allow the company to place on the market part of the shares held.
At one time the company had 1.3 billion in capitalisation. Following a statement from the American fund Quintessential Capital Management, specialised in spotting companies with irregular accounts, 80 per cent of that value was lost in three months, said Il Fatto Quotdiano.
Il Sole 24 Ore reports that many institutional investors wanted to make a profit with Bio-on – Norges bank, the Norwegian central bank had 432,000 shares at the end of 2018. But none of them staked too much, and indeed many had already reduced the number of their shares in Bio-on prior to the summer. So most of the total 400 million euros lost by investors in the former unicorn company comes from small savers.
These investors were attracted by what the Alberto Ziroldi, the Bologna preliminary investigations judge, called the company’s “bombastic, alluring” communications, reports Il Fatto Quotidiano.
The Italian Stock Exchange has announced that Bio-on shares are suspended from trading.