UPDATE 1-Credit Agricole may boost regional banks' powers -papers

Fri Sep 20, 2013 3:27pm EDT

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PARIS, Sept 20 (Reuters) - French bank Credit Agricole is considering a reorganisation that could bolster the powers of the regional savings banks that are its main shareholders, two French newspapers reported on Friday.

The FNCA federation in which the regional banks group their majority shareholding has hired Citigroup to advise it on talks underway on a potential reshuffle of the group. Credit Agricole SA, the listed entity, has hired Rothschild and Morgan Stanley, Le Figaro reported, citing unnamed sources.

The listed entity, in addition to controlling its investment banking, life insurance and asset management units, runs the wider group even though much of the bank's profits come from the wealthy, politically connected regional banks.

The federation is seeking to replace Credit Agricole SA as the main governing body of the group, and its representatives have been trying to convince the French Finance Ministry to make legislative changes that would be needed to allow such a change, Les Echos said, also citing anonymous sources.

A reorganisation could have the advantage of making the bank's governing and shareholder structure clearer to foreign investors, the papers said.

"As part of its periodic strategic review, Credit Agricole regularly examines its organisation," the bank said in a statement. "The market would be informed if this process were to lead to any significant organisational changes."

The FNCA and the Finance Ministry both declined to comment.

A reorganisation would face various obstacles, including the opposition of certain regional banks as well as doubts from the French state and regulators, who worry that such a change could destabilise the group and believe the current structure works well, the papers said.

The Bank of France and regulatory body ACP also both declined to comment.

Talk about an ownership overhaul at Credit Agricole, the No. 3 French bank, follows a major restructuring aimed at simplifying the ties between cooperative bank BPCE and its listed Natixis investment banking unit earlier this year. (Reporting by Christian Plumb and Matthias Blamont, Additional reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Anthony Barker)

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