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Monte dei Paschi capital talks enter final stretch after Italy vote

Economy Sep 27, 2022 02:00AM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: View of the entrance to the headquarters of Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS), in Siena, Italy, August 11, 2021. REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini/File Photo

By Valentina Za and Giuseppe Fonte

MILAN (Reuters) -Monte dei Paschi di Siena faces a tight schedule to secure cornerstone shareholders for a share sale of up to 2.5 billion euros ($2.4 billion) after an election pause during which investors were non-committal ended on Monday.

After leading the conservative alliance to victory in Sunday's vote, Giorgia Meloni looks set to become Italy's first woman prime minister at the head of its most right-wing government since World War Two.

Maurizio Leo, a senior economic adviser to the Brothers of Italy leader Meloni, said MPS was in good hands.

"We trust Chief Executive Luigi Lovaglio can see through the transaction," he told Reuters, adding: "He's got the experience and he can deliver."

MPS faces the challenge of raising more than eight times its current market value of 300 million euros, five years after a bailout that provided 8.2 billion euros in capital.

This means it is not able to offer a significant discount on new shares and will be more highly valued than competitors.

State-owned MPS aims to launch the new share issue on Oct. 10, so as to raise the funds it needs in time to lay off some 3,500 staff using early retirement rules that end after November.

Lovaglio had held off involving insurer Axa and asset manager Anima Holding, despite the willingness of MPS' main commercial partners to play a role in its recapitalisation, sources have said.

With Anima ready to provide up to 200 million euros in cash as part of a strengthened commercial partnership with MPS, the Tuscan bank would likely need France's Axa to contribute as much for the deal to go ahead, two people close to the matter said.

The state will cover 64% of MPS' capital raising, but the rest must come from private hands under European Union rules limiting state aid to lenders.

After a stand-off that irked some of the eight banks in MPS' underwriting consortium, Lovaglio finally agreed to meet top executives from Anima and Axa in London last week.

But no financial details have yet been firmed up with either party, meaning time is tight especially when it comes to revising Anima's contracts with MPS, one of the people said.

Unlike Anima, Axa won't alter its 'bancassurance' joint-venture with MPS, but simply buy portfolios of insurance contracts, allowing MPS to anticipate future revenues, the people said.

All interested parties declined to comment.

The banks organising the share sale see the involvement of cornerstone investors as fundamental. They can walk away from a proper underwriting commitment if the sale is unlikely to succeed based on feedback from investors.

The cash call is likely to be completed before a new government is formed at the end of October or early November, with the offer is expected to run for three weeks from Oct. 10.

Meanwhile, MPS shares failed to trade on Monday after a reverse stock split to pave the way for the capital increase. Italy's bourse said after markets closed it would not allow orders on MPS shares without a price limit.

($1 = 1.0338 euros)

Monte dei Paschi capital talks enter final stretch after Italy vote

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