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By Pamela Barbaglia and Anjuli Davies
LONDON, Sept 20 Three bidders have emerged as
the main contenders to buy UniCredit's fund management
arm Pioneer, in a deal which could net 3 billion euros ($3.4
billion) for Italy's largest bank, sources familiar with the
matter said on Tuesday.
Italian insurer Assicurazioni Generali, the
country's largest asset manager, French group Amundi,
Europe's biggest asset manager, and an Italian consortium led by
Poste Italiane have all made rival offers, the sources
These bids are seen to be ahead of the pack, the sources
said, with other offers involving French firms Axa and
Natixis, Australia's Macquarie, German
insurer Allianz and British group Aberdeen Asset
UniCredit, Generali, Amundi, Poste Italiane and Macquarie
declined to comment while officials at the other companies were
not immediately available for comment.
The successful sale is crucial for the Italian bank, which
is seeking to plug a gap in its capital requirements estimated
to be as big as 8 billion euros and wants to clinch a deal by
November, even though the deadline for non-binding bids only
closed on Monday, the sources said.
The sale process, led by U.S. banks JPMorgan and Morgan
Stanley, will gather pace in the coming weeks, with UniCredit
granting access to Pioneer's books ahead of a deadline for
binding offers in late October, the sources said.
The Italian bank wants to raise up to 3 billion euros from
the sale of Pioneer, which has over 220 billion euros of assets
French boss Jean-Pierre Mustier, appointed in July, may need
to decide between a French and an Italian deal, the sources
said, adding that a so-called "Italian solution" would be
welcomed by the government.
Poste Italiane has teamed up with state-backed bank Cassa
Depositi e Prestiti and asset manager Anima,
a company where it holds a 10.32 percent stake, and wants to
offer more investment products to Italian savers through its
network of 13,000 branches across the country.
But Poste Italiane lacks the international expertise of
global players such as Generali and Amundi who are better placed
to negotiate Pioneer's licences to operate in foreign markets,
one of the sources said.
Amundi, which has almost $1 trillion of assets under
management, was created from the merger of the asset management
arms of French banks Credit Agricole and Societe
Generale in 2010 and is now valued at 7.5 billion
euros, having been listed on Euronext Paris last November.
UniCredit is currently conducting a wide-ranging review of
its businesses with a view to selling more assets and reduce the
size of any share issue.
An Intermonte report on Monday said a sale of Pioneer for 3
billion euros would add 0.5-0.6 percentage points to UniCredit's
core capital adequacy ratio.
Chief Executive Jean-Pierre Mustier is expected to unveil a
strategic and capital-boosting plan at the end of November and
wants to have a clear idea of how much he is likely to raise
from the sale of Pioneer before then.
But he might decide to launch a share issue only after Banca
Monte dei Paschi has completed its own cash call early
next year, two of the sources said, so as not to interfere with
his weaker rival's fundraising efforts.
Meanwhile the sale of Pioneer is long overdue. UniCredit
gave up in July on trying to combine it with Spanish bank
Santander's asset management arm in a 2.75 billion-euro
deal first agreed in April last year.
Since then the bank has been looking for another industry
player rather than a private equity fund to buy Pioneer, hoping
to fetch a better price based on the synergies of a combination
with another asset manager.
($1 = 0.8955 euros)
(Additional reporting by Francesca Landini, Gianluca Semeraro
and Silvia Aloisi in Milan; Editing by Greg Mahlich)