Credit Agricole tells Rome no plans to win control of Banco BPM – sources
By Giuseppe Fonte and Valentina Za
ROME (Reuters) – Credit Agricole has told Italy’s Treasury it has no plans to take control of Banco BPM, two sources close to the matter told Reuters, after the French lender’s purchase of a 9.2% stake last week raised the prospect of a full bid.
Given the French group’s presence in Italy, its biggest foreign market, the investment in Banco BPM – which made Credit Agricole the leading investor in the country’s No.3 bank – stoked speculation that a full takeover could follow.
One of the sources said Rome had raised no objections to Credit Agricole’s stakebuilding, but any attempt to win control of Banco BPM would cause serious concerns.
The source added that Credit Agricole had reassured Rome it had no bid plans. “The French have confirmed that they do not want control of Banco BPM,” the source said.
Credit Agricole and Banco BPM both declined to comment.
Under so-called golden power rules, the government has the right to block unwanted bids in industries deemed of strategic importance, such as banking, energy and telecoms.
In unveiling the stake in Banco BPM, Credit Agricole said it had not sought regulatory approval to cross the 10% threshold.
It has said it wants to expand its strategic partnerships with Banco BPM, currently centred on consumer finance, with insurance and asset management seen as the obvious candidates.
Banco BPM on Tuesday took the first step in a strategy to bring in house its insurance business and potentially look for new partners, a move that may lead it to tighten ties with Credit Agricole.
Like Italy’s biggest bank Intesa Sanpaolo, Credit Agricole has both an asset management and an insurance business.
The sources said Credit Agricole’s move had irked Italy’s leading financial institutions, with one source adding the Treasury had been urged to take a stance over a potential takeover.
Banco BPM had been an acquisition target for bigger domestic rival UniCredit, which was ready to launch a bid before being hit by the Ukraine war due its large exposure to Russia.
Credit Agricole’s asset management arm Amundi in 2016 bought rival Pioneer from UniCredit for 3.6 billion euros.
The two have a distribution accord which expire in 2026 and a person with direct knowledge of the matter had previously told Reuters that UniCredit was unhappy with sales targets under the accord.
Credit Agricole’s Italian unit has more than 90 billion euros in assets after spending 860 million euros last year to buy small bank Creval, in which it had first taken a stake in 2018.
Rome in February 2021 gave a green light to the Creval acquisition, in one of the first moves by Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government.
(Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte and Valentina Za; Editing by David Holmes)