Italy struggles to push ahead with sale of four small banks

Mon Oct 3, 2016 2:05pm EDT
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By Stefano Bernabei and Paola Arosio

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's economy minister met with senior Italian bankers and the Bank of Italy governor on Monday to try to push forward with a sale of four small banks that were rescued from bankruptcy last November.

The meeting comes just days after a deadline to sell the banks was extended for a second time. If the four banks cannot be sold within two years of last November's rescue, Italy risks having to wind them down under tough European rules that came into force this year.

The sale of Banca Marche, Popolare Etruria, CariFerrara and CariChieti, has become the latest banking headache for Italy's government, which is already struggling to sort out the country's third biggest bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS.MI: Quote).

"There is only one item on the agenda; how to find a solution for the (four) banks," a source, who declined to be named as the talks are private, said.

Economy minister Pier Carlo Padoan called the meeting on Monday with the bosses of Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MI: Quote), UniCredit (CRDI.MI: Quote) and UBI (UBI.MI: Quote) and Bank of Italy Governor Ignazio Visco. Padoan said the meeting had been called to deal "with a situation of transition not of crisis."

The source also said the European Central Bank was "putting up ever more hurdles" in the sale process. "We have to find a solution now because we can't carry on with this uncertainty."

The four banks were rescued last year at a cost of 3.75 billion euros ($4.21 billion), which was carried out by a fund financed by the country's other banks. Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MI: Quote), UniCredit (CRDI.MI: Quote) and UBI (UBI.MI: Quote) lent 1.65 billion euros to the fund.

The banks that contributed the money were hoping to recoup at least some of through a sale of the four banks. This was initially due to take place by the end of April but was postponed to the end of September to give more time to attract buyers.   Continued...

Bank of Italy Governor Ignazio Visco attends the session 'Recharging Europe' in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 23, 2015. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich