(Bloomberg) — Italy’s Mediobanca SpA approached Assicurazioni Generali SpA about acquiring the insurer’s private banking and wealth management unit before ultimately abandoning the plan, people familiar with the matter said.
The Milan-based investment bank decided that conditions were unfavorable for a bid on Banca Generali SpA, a listed unit of the Italian insurer that has a market value of 3.2 billion euros ($3.8 billion), said the people, asking not to be named as the talks remain private.
Representatives for Generali and Mediobanca declined to comment.
Photographer: Camilla Cerea/Bloomberg
Mediobanca Chief Executive Officer Alberto Nagel looked at a range of options to pay for the deal, including partially using shares the bank owns in Generali, according to the people. Mediobanca holds about 13% of Trieste, Italy-based Generali.
Nagel, who over the last two years has been looking to pull off a landmark deal at the bank where he’s worked since 1991, was dissuaded by the performance of Generali shares, which have lost about 35% since the beginning of the year, and by market uncertainties in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the people said.
Mediobanca fell as much as 1.8% in Milan trading and was down 1.1% at 6.62 euros as of 9:06 a.m. The stock has declined about 34% this year, giving the company a market value of 5.86 billion euros.
Consolidation in the Italian financial industry is already well underway. Lender Intesa Sanpaolo SpA earlier this year announced its planned takeover of Unione di Banche Italiane SpA, while the Italian government reportedly asked UniCredit SpA executives if they’d be interested in buying the state’s majority holding in Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA.
A purchase of Banca Generali would have fit with Mediobanca’s planned expansion in asset management, which Nagel announced in November. The CEO said at the time that the bank was ready to look at acquisition opportunities in wealth management to speed up growth. In the event of a “transformational deal,” Nagel said he would be ready to sell the bank’s stake in Generali.
Banca Generali is among potential targets that would have advanced Nagel’s proposed strategy, the people familiar said. The bank had net revenue of about 1 billion euros last year according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
If it had proved successful, the move to buy Banca Generali could also have served as a response to criticism from Mediobanca’s biggest investor, eyewear billionaire Leonardo Del Vecchio, who has lambasted the bank’s management for being too passive in seeking growth opportunities and for being overly dependent on returns from the Generali stake.
The three companies involved in the merger discussion have a long history of cross-shareholding. Generali controls Banca Generali with a 50% stake, while Mediobanca is Generali’s biggest single investor with a 13% holding. Del Vecchio, who won approval last month to double his stake in Mediobanca to as much as 20%, also has a 4.8% stake in Generali.
Banca Generali had 68.9 billion euros in total assets at the end of June.
(Updates with share price in sixth paragraph)
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