MILAN (Reuters) – Eyewear magnate Leonardo Del Vecchio, who owns 1.9% of UniCredit, opposes the lender taking over from rival Monte dei Paschi and is in contact with other major Italian investors who share concerns about a potential agreement, two people close to each other said.
Roma is looking to reduce its 64% stake in Monte dei Paschi (MPS) after spending € 5.4 billion on a 2017 bailout of the world’s oldest bank. MPS now needs an additional 2.5 billion euros ($ 3 billion) to support its finances.
Italy sees UniCredit as the ideal partner for MPS, sources said. But the Milan-based bank is looking for a new boss after CEO Jean Pierre Mustier said he will step down by April after clashing with the bank’s board over the strategy.
Mustier, who avoided mergers and acquisitions in favor of returning money to investors, had set difficult conditions for considering a potential MPS acquisition, sources said.
The choice of a new CEO will have implications for any potential agreement with MPS.
The newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore reports Thursday Del Vecchio held meetings with two other important Italian shareholders of UniCredit, the CariVerona Foundation and the CRT Foundation.
These three, which have an overall stake in UniCredit of 5.36%, are looking to forge a pact to have more say in the choice of a new CEO and avert a potential agreement with Monte dei Paschi, the newspaper said.
UniCredit, Del Vecchio’s holding company, Delfin, and the two foundations declined to comment on the relationship.
One of the sources confirmed that UniCredit’s three shareholders had held talks and said it shared concerns over a takeover of the loss-making Monte dei Paschi, adding that it was too early to talk about a shareholder agreement.
The person said a way to remove UniCredit from a potential Monte dei Paschi deal would be to support a alternative merger.
UniCredit had held a preliminary merger interview with Banco BPM last year which ended unsuccessfully.
Rome is working on plans to make the acquisition of MPS more attractive for UniCredit and its shareholders. Two people familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday that Italy could take on about € 14 billion of non-performing loans. from UniCredit through state-backed loan manager AMCO.
One of the sources said that some UniCredit investors, while skeptical of a Monte dei Paschi deal, may be willing to evaluate the conditions advanced by Rome to facilitate a sale.
UniCredit is expected to choose a new CEO in February, while a shortlist could emerge when the bank’s nomination committee meets on January 14, two people familiar with the matter said.
($ 1 = 0.8160 euros)
Reportage by Claudia Cristoferi, Gianluca Semeraro, Andrea Mandala and Valentina Za. Editing by Jane Merriman