Crédit Agricole could get its hands on a new bank in Italy

Posted on Jan 7, 2022, 5:37 PM

Will Crédit Agricole further expand its small Italian empire? In recent years, the French banking giant has successively acquired several regional banks in the north of the country to become the seventh transalpine network. He is now cited by the country’s press as one of the possible buyers of a troubled bank, the Genoese establishment Banca Carige. The latter is currently 80% controlled by the Interbank Deposit Protection Fund of Italy (FITD).

According to the Roman daily “Il Messaggero”, the French bank offered to buy Carige for a symbolic euro and requested a prior capital increase of 700 million euros to be carried out by the fund controlled by the Italian banks, which had already had it. bailed out in 2019.

The movement would be quite spectacular for the French group, less than a year after another acquisition in the Peninsula, that of Credito Valtellinese (Creval). This € 785 million transaction helped consolidate Crédit Agricole’s place in the Italian landscape, with a 5% market share.

“A size similar to Creval”

Crédit Agricole refuses for the moment to comment. Without confirming this scenario, several internal sources are not surprised, the bank remaining constant in its desire for development in the country. “Carige is of a size similar to that of Creval and would further consolidate the bank’s establishment in the north of the peninsula,” explains a source familiar with the matter. The operation would make sense ”.

Without referring specifically to the mutualist group, the FITD only confirmed having received “non-binding offers” and denied the figure of 700 million euros.

The use of the plural revives in the Italian press other rumors, as for the intentions of BNP Paribas via its transalpine subsidiary BNL or the American fund Cerberus. Crédit Agricole’s offer would also compete with that of the Bank of Emilia-Romagna (BPER Banca), which announced in November a non-binding offer for the purchase of 88% of Carige’s capital for one euro, before the launch of a takeover bid on the remaining 12% of the capital.

The FITD had, however, refused to accept this offer, considering that the preliminary injection of funds of one billion euros which had been requested by BPER Banca was too high. The latter is prepared to review its offer but asks for exclusivity.

Short-lived suspense

The suspense could be short-lived: the preliminary study of the offers submitted is “at an advanced stage” and will be completed “probably on Monday”, at the next meeting of the fund’s management committee, the FITD said in a statement.

If it materializes, this operation would strengthen Italy’s status as Crédit Agricole’s “second domestic market” after France. Before the acquisition of Creval, the mutual banking group, for example, bought at the end of 2017 three regional savings banks in northern Italy. The group is deploying its universal banking model locally, offering its insurance contracts, investment products and consumer loans through its network. Italy now generates 15% of Crédit Agricole SA (CASA) net income.

Such a move could also be viewed favorably by European supervisors. The latter are trying to encourage cross-border marriages between banks – in particular so that a powerful group can come to “save” a more fragile establishment in another state in the euro zone.

As for investors, they also seem to believe in an imminent outcome: the price of Carige jumped on Friday by more than 11%, to 0.89 cents, or 9 cents more than the price offered by BPER for its takeover bid.

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