Spain’s government pledged to protect Telefonica from hostile takeover bids which may emerge from overseas investors seeking to take advantage of a sharp drop in the operator’s share price, in provisions made in emergency legislation.

The Royal Decree Law 8/2020, passed in response to the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, states investors from outside the EU and the European Free Trade Association will be unable to hold a stake equal to or more than 10 per cent in listed Spanish companies.

It added such investors will also be unable to take control of companies in a number of sectors, including communications and media.

As the coronavirus crisis continues to impact global markets and companies, Telefonica has notably been hit hard. At the time of writing, its share price stood at €4.51, a fall of a third over the past month.

Telefonica is a 100 per cent listed company, with more than 1.5 million direct shareholders. US investment company BlackRock is the largest, with a 6.7 per cent stake.