MILAN, July 27 Italy's UniCredit is close to selling a new portion of its private equity holdings after a similar deal in 2013, a source close to the matter said on Sunday, as European banks shed non-core assets to strengthen their capital base.
Banks across the euro zone are under pressure to bolster their balance sheets, which are under scrutiny in a health check of the sector whose results will be unveiled in the autumn.
Daily Il Sole 24 Ore said on Sunday UniCredit was close to selling to a vehicle controlled by SwanCap Partners a significant part of its remaining 1.5 billion euro ($2 billion) private equity investment portfolio, along the lines of a similar 1 billion euro deal in 2013.
UniCredit last year spun off the private equity arm of its German unit HypoVereinsbank (HVB) to create SwanCap Partners. It then sold a portion of HVB's private equity holdings to SwanCap Opportunities Fund, a fund managed by SwanCap Partners.
"UniCredit is expected to announce a deal similar to the one it did a year ago," the source said. "More private equity assets should be spun off to SwanCap Partners," it added without giving further details.
UniCredit, Italy's biggest bank by assets, had no comment. It was not immediately possible to contact SwanCap Partners.
In May, UniCredit CEO Federico Ghizzoni said it was considering the sale of more of HVB's private equity investments. At the time, a source familiar with the matter said the value of the transaction would be around 1 billion euros.
HVB said in its annual report that the private equity spin-off reflected the bank's continued focus on its core business and anticipated regulatory changes and uncertainties regarding future restrictions on private equity investments for banks.
Il Sole also said rival Intesa Sanpaolo is considering selling its private equity holdings. The paper said investment manager Neuberger Berman could be interested.
Intesa and Neuberger Berman were not immediately available to comment. (Reporting by Valentina Za, editing by Lisa Jucca and David Evans)