ROME/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni vetoed a takeover deal by a cloud services provider due to funding links with Russian internet giant Yandex, according to a government document and three people familiar with the matter.
The move marks the first time that Meloni's administration has used its so-called "golden powers" regulation to block undesired bids in industries deemed of strategic importance such as banking, energy, telecoms and health.
Meloni swept to power last October after a resounding election victory in September.
The veto was decided on at a Cabinet meeting on March 16, a document sent to parliament and published on the Italian Senate's website showed.
Under the rebuffed deal, Dutch-based company Nebius would have acquired Tecnologia Intelligente (TI), a small company set up by Marco Carrai, an Italian businessman close to former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
Two government officials told Reuters the government was concerned about the deal because Nebius's activities were funded by Yandex.
Yandex's Dutch-registered holding company is planning to divest ownership and control of most of Yandex Group, including its main revenue-generating businesses, with the international divisions of some services, comprising cloud, to be developed outside Russia.
A third, separate source said Nebius is part of Yandex's Dutch holding company, Yandex NV, and would be part of the new international company post-restructuring.
"They were basically told that as long as they're connected to a Russian company, it's not going to work," one of the sources told Reuters.
While Yandex, often referred to as "Russia's Google", has not fallen under Western sanctions, some executives have.
Yandex declined to comment. Calls and messages texted to Carrai went unanswered.
Nebius had planned to build an R&D hub in Italy to attract top tech talent from Russia and elsewhere, said Danila Shtan, one of the key developers at Nebius.
"Our Dutch holding company is in the process of divesting its Russian business – unfortunately this isn't a fast process," Shtan said. "But hopefully when it completes, we can get back to focusing on tech instead of visas."
Italy's use of its golden powers usually results in deals being approved with recommendations intended to preserve the national interest.
Since the golden power was introduced in 2012, government authorities have blocked foreign forays into Italy nine times.
In six cases, the vetoes stopped Chinese bids, while Meloni's predecessor Mario Draghi last year rejected an attempt by Russia's state-owned atomic company Rosatom to acquire Faber Industrie, a hydrogen company.
The next key decision that Meloni's government needs to make concerns the planned sale of a Lukoil-owned refinery in Sicily to Cypriot private equity firm G.O.I. Energy.
Some media outlets have speculated that the United States is concerned over the sale of the Priolo refinery, which is only about 50 km (30 miles) away from a NATO base in Sigonella.
In response, G.O.I. Energy issued a statement last month saying neither the company nor its chief executive, Michael Bobrov, has any connection with Russia.
(Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte in Rome and Alexander Marrow in Moscow)