Equinox private equity fund eyes stake in Monte Paschi

Equinox Investments, a Luxembourg-based private equity fund, has confirmed its interest in acquiring an ‘important’ stake in Italy’s third largest bank, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena.

Reports suggest Equinox is interested in acquiring about 12%, which gives it a current value of about €500m. The bank’s debts are said to amount to more than €1bn.

Last month, the MPS Foundation, which controls 49% of the MPS bank, took an “historic” decision to reduce its controlling share of the bank, as part of a plan to rebuild the bank’s balance sheet.

The Foundation, which has relied almost entirely on the profits of the bank, has agreed to sell a stake of up to 15% of its shares in the bank. The Foundation would aim to have at least 33.5% of the shares, which would give it the veto on the board.

Salvatore Mancuso, chairman of Equinox, said: “We have always been interested. We have a business plan.” He said an investment in Monte dei Paschi di Siena wouldn’t be ‘purely financial’. “We have always played the role of minority shareholders, working to add value to the targeted asset.”

The Foundation, headed by Gabriele Mancini, is looking to sell the stake to ‘strategic counterparties’, which would have to be approved by both the regulator and Italy’s economy minister. Mancini’s term of office expires next year.

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