UniCredit seeks strategic partner for Pioneer

Italy’s largest bank UniCredit is seeking a strategic partner for its asset management business Pioneer, as part of a plan to bolster its capital base, Reuters has reported.

The news has emerged after UniCredit ended in July negotiations to merge Pioneer with Santander’s asset management division in a deal valuing Pioneer at €2.75bn because of regulatory hurdles.

The Italian bank said then it was looking at alternative options for Pioneer, including a market listing.

Chief Executive Jean-Pierre Mustier, appointed in July, is widely expected to launch a multi-billion euro capital increase and sell assets in coming months to boost UniCredit’s balance sheet.

He is conducting a wide-ranging review of the bank’s operations, with an announcement expected by the end of the year.

One of Reuters sources said the bank had contacted around ten potential partners for Pioneer, without elaborating. A second source said the bank favoured an industrial partner with experience on asset gathering, rather than a private equity fund.

Il Messaggero newspaper reported that non-binding offers for Pioneer were expected on 20 September and that among the potential bidders contacted were Credit Agricole’s asset manager Amundi, BNP Paribas, Italian insurer Generali, French insurer Axa, US-based firms Invesco and Blackstone.

InvestmentEurope contacted UniCredit but it was not immediately available for comment, while Pioneer declined to comment.

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