Monte Paschi shareholders approve 5-billion euro share sale

Wed May 21, 2014 8:18am EDT
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By Silvia Aloisi and Stefano Bernabei

SIENA (Reuters) - Shareholders in Italy's Monte dei Paschi di Siena approved a proposal to boost the size of an upcoming share sale to 5 billion euros ($6.9 billion) to help it absorb a hit on its finances it expects from a Europe-wide bank health check.

At an extraordinary meeting in the bank's hometown of Siena, shareholders overwhelmingly agreed to raise the capital increase, initially planned at 3 billion euros, by two billion euros. The new amount is twice the bank's current market value.

In slides prepared for the meeting, Italy's third-largest bank said the higher cash call was needed to give the bank an extra buffer "to absorb the negative impact which will reasonably emerge" from the asset review and stress tests being conducted this year by European regulators.

"With this capital increase, this bank goes back to being a normal, healthy bank. Monte Paschi is no longer a problem for the Italian banking system," Chairman Alessandro Profumo, appointed in 2012 to turn the lender around, told reporters.

Monte dei Paschi is one of nine Italian banks under European scrutiny to raise funds on the market so far this year. Altogether, they have announced plans to raise a combined 10.8 billion euros.

The Tuscan lender, which has one of the highest percentages of soured loans among Italian banks, was hit hard by the euro-zone debt crisis and by a scandal over loss-making derivative trades, had to request 4.1 billion euros in state aid last year to stay afloat.

It is cutting 8,000 jobs and shutting 550 branches as part of a tough restructuring plan agreed with the European Commission, and plans to return to profit in 2015. It has lost more than 8 billion euros over the past three years.

"Just remember that without what we have done in the past two years this bank would not exist anymore," Profumo told angry small shareholders lamenting the bank's fall from grace.   Continued...

Monte Dei Paschi bank headquarters is pictured in Siena January 25, 2013. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini