The owner of Carige said that it could decide which bid for the ailing Italian lender to pursue, following reports of an offer by Credit Agricole that pits the French bank against Italy’s BPER. Italy’s FITD depositor protection fund owns 80% of Carige. This is after the 2019 rescue. They said that it would not comment on the reports nor rectify incorrect quantitative indications.
It confirmed that it had received non-binding offers for Carige that were subject to a due diligence analysis. Its steering committee meets soon and expects to conclude then an ongoing review process. The mooted rescue deal would further boost Credit Agricole’s presence in Italy. A spokesperson for Credit Agricole Italia, which in the past had denied any interest for Carige. Bailed-out Carige has been hunting for a buyer after Cassa Centrale Banca (CCB). CCB had taken an 8.3% stake as part of the industry-financed 600-million-euro rescue of 2019.
Before Christmas the FITD fund rejected an initial takeover proposal by BPER Banca. This had offered a token one-euro price and requested a 1-billion-euro capital injection by the FITD. That sum exceeded the 700 million euros. The FITD was allowed to spend based on the previous year’s contributions by members. Daily Il Messaggero reported that Credit Agricole Italia had requested a 700-million-euro injection. BPER has been set onto an expansion path by its biggest shareholder UnipolSAI. It has said it remains ready to engage in discussions with FITD over Carige.
Credit Agricole would need clearance from Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government. Five-Star lawmaker Davide Zanichelli called for Rome to use its special powers to set conditions for Carige. The 380-million-euro tax benefit a buyer would pocket under incentives to foster a sale. Carige shares closed up 4.6%. This is against the wider Milan market’s 1.7% drop. Carige was placed under special administration by the European Central Bank. This is after being laid low by an excessive exposure to the fragile economy of the coastal Liguria region and decades of mismanagement. It now needs another 400 million euros in capital.