February 11, 2020 / 5:07 PM / 17 days ago

Italy's Fineco plans to open commercial branch in Britain

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian online broker FinecoBank (FBK.MI) plans to open a commercial branch in Britain, Chief Executive Alessandro Foti said, despite its departure from the European Union.

FILE PHOTO: The Fineco bank logo is seen in downtown Rome, Italy, March 16, 2016. REUTERS/Max Rossi

Banks and financial firms have been scrambling to adjust to Brexit, which could see the end of London’s privileged access to the EU and new controls on European banks in Britain when the transitional period expires at the end of December.

German online bank N26 said on Tuesday it plans to leave the British market and close all accounts held there because it will no longer be able to use its European banking licence.

However Foti said following Fineco’s results that it had no plans to pull out of Britain.

“We think that Britain is an interesting market and we are gearing up accordingly,” he told Reuters by telephone.

Fineco has been offering its products and services in Britain since 2018 to almost 6,500 customers, 69% of whom are non-Italian. Opening a commercial branch will not have any requirements in terms of capital or costs attached.

The online bank is expected to give more details on its UK plans by the end of the first quarter.

Foti reiterated that the bank is not interested in growing externally with acquisitions or mergers and has not been approached by anyone for a possible tie-up.

Fineco has been rumoured as a possible target for larger rivals ever since Italy’s biggest bank UniCredit (CRDI.MI) sold its entire stake last year. Trading at premium to its expected profits the company is, however, considered too expensive to attract interest from potential buyers, analysts said.

Shares in Fineco slipped 4% after recent gains as in-line 2019 results failed to cheer investors. They rose around 12% last week ahead of the results.

“There’s nothing bad in today’s results, but most people were expecting something really good, something special and were disappointed,” a trader said.

Fineco posted a 2019 net profit of 288.4 million and said it would propose a dividend of 32 euro cents.

The Italian online broker expects a resilient net interest income and higher fees for 2020.

Reporting by Gianluca Semeraro, additional reporting by Stefano Rebaudo, editing by Alexander Smith

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