UniCredit may sell or float Pioneer Investments unit: FT

Mon Mar 17, 2014 6:07am EDT

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(Reuters) - Italy's biggest bank by assets UniCredit SpA (CRDI.MI) may sell or float its Pioneer Investments asset management unit, valued at over 2 billion euros ($2.79 billion), as part of a wider disposal programme, the Financial Times reported.

Pioneer is likely to be put up for sale or flotation as early as next year, the FT said on its website, citing people familiar with UniCredit's thinking. (link.reuters.com/kum67v).

A spokesman for UniCredit declined to comment on the possible sale or listing of Pioneer: "We don't comment on press speculation," the spokesman said.

The bank posted a record 14 billion euro loss on Tuesday due to huge writedowns on bad loans and past acquisitions as it acted to clean up its balance sheet before an industry-wide health check by European regulators.

UniCredit launched a restructuring plan the same day, aiming to cut 8,500 jobs by 2018 - nearly 6 percent of its workforce.

In efforts to raise capital, the plan includes the listing of its Internet-banking arm Fineco this year and the sale of UniCredit Management Bank, which manages and sells bad debt.

Chief Executive Federico Ghizzoni declined to comment when asked by reporters last week if UniCredit was planning to sell Pioneer.

"For the moment, Pioneer remains core," a source familiar with the situation said.

The Milan-based lender had tried to sell Pioneer, which manages 174 billion euros of assets, four years ago, but abandoned these plans shortly after Federico Ghizzoni took over as chief executive in 2010.

Several European banks, including Lloyds (LLOY.L), Santander (SAN.MC) and Societe Generale (SOGN.PA), have sold their asset management businesses over the past year in a bid to repair crisis-battered balance sheets.

In slides to the presentation of its 2013-2018 business plan, UniCredit said it planned to scale-up Pioneer's asset management business by increasing its distribution footprint.

The plan targets boosting Pioneer's assets under management to 263 billion euros by 2018. ($1 = 0.7181 Euros)

(Reporting by Richa Naidu in Bangalore and Lisa Jucca in Milan, editing by Mark Heinrich and Louise Heavens)

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