UniCredit CEO dashes all talk of Pioneer unit sale

MILAN Tue Apr 8, 2014 3:15pm EDT

A man talks on the phone outside the UniCredit Bank headquarters in Milan March 11, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

A man talks on the phone outside the UniCredit Bank headquarters in Milan March 11, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Alessandro Garofalo

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MILAN (Reuters) - The chief executive of Italy's biggest lender UniCredit (CRDI.MI) dashed talk about a possible sale of its asset management unit on Tuesday by saying Pioneer Investments was core to its business and not up for sale.

"Pioneer is highly strategic," Federico Ghizzoni said at a news conference, adding reports of a possible sale were not true.

The Financial Times reported last month that UniCredit was considering putting up for sale or floating Pioneer, valued at over 2 billion euros ($2.8 billion), as early as next year.

A person familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier this month that Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (601398.SS) (1398.HK) was considering a bid for Pioneer, one of Europe's biggest money managers.

Euro zone banks are under pressure to boost their capital as the European Central Bank carries out a health check of the sector this year before taking on supervision of the bloc's lenders. Some plan asset sales as a way to raise capital.

Ghizzoni also said the online broker business DAB Bank (DRNG.DE) of its German unit HVB was for the time being an important asset for the group. "Later we'll see," he said.

A German online newspaper wrote last week that HVB was mulling options for DAB, including a possible sale.

Ghizzoni also reiterated that investor interest was high for its UniCredit Credit Management Bank (UCCMB), the credit management unit the group has put up for sale.

"We need a few months to complete the process," the CEO said.

Italy's biggest lender by assets is seeking offers for the unit which manages more than a third of Italy's non-performing loans.

As Italy slowly emerges from recession, banks are trying to shed non-performing loans to make space for fresh lending to companies.

Ghizzoni said at the weekend that UniCredit would try to sell a portion of its problematic loans together with a majority stake in UCCMB.

Ghizzoni said that UniCredit had added 30-35 basis points to its capital through the recent issue of an Additional Tier 1 bond, out of 150 basis points the bank is planning to achieve through such issues.

($1 = 0.7249 Euros)

(Reporting by Gianluca Semeraro, writing by Valentina Za and Stephen Jewkes; editing by Keiron Henderson)

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