Crédit Agricole proposes to buy Italian bank Carige

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The bailout agreement would further strengthen Crédit Agricole’s presence in Italy, its largest foreign market where it ranks sixth among lenders after the € 1 billion ($ 1.1 billion) buyout of the small bank from the north of Creval last year.

A spokesperson for Crédit Agricole Italia, who had previously denied any interest in Carige, declined to comment.

The Carige bailout was in search of a buyer after Cassa Centrale Banca (CCB), one of its shareholders, withdrew from a proposed acquisition last year.

The Genoa-based lender is 80% owned by the industry-funded FITD depositor protection fund which saved it in 2019 at a cost of € 600million. CCB holds 8.3%.

Before Christmas, the FITD fund rejected a first buyout proposal from BPER Banca, which had offered a symbolic price of one euro and asked the FITD to inject 1 billion euros into Carige.

This amount exceeded the 700 million euros that the FITD was authorized to spend on the basis of membership contributions from the previous year.

The daily Il Messaggero reported that Crédit Agricole Italia had requested an injection of 700 million euros from the FITD.

BPER, which has embarked on a path of expansion through its largest shareholder UnipolSAI, said it was ready to enter into discussions with FITD over Carige.

A buyer would receive up to € 500 million in tax benefits as part of a government measure to facilitate the sale of Carige.

Carige shares were up 2% at 3:00 p.m. GMT, compared to a 1.6% drop in the Milan all-stock index.

The daily La Stampa reported that the FITD fund was due to meet on Monday to discuss offers for Carige. The FITD declined to comment.

Carige was placed under special administration by the European Central Bank in 2019 after being brought down by excessive exposure to the fragile maritime economy of the northwestern Liguria region and decades of mismanagement.

It now needs an additional € 400 million in capital, he said.

($ 1 = € 0.8832)

(Written by Valentina Za; edited by Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Elaine Hardcastle)

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