(Adds Pioneer's background, comments from industry)
By Nishant Kumar
HONG KONG, April 2 Industrial and Commercial
Bank of China Ltd (ICBC) is considering a
bid for Pioneer Investments, one of Europe's biggest money
managers, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Pioneer, owned by Italy's biggest bank by assets Unicredit
, managed 174 billion euros ($240 billion) as of the
end of last year.
British newspaper The Sunday Times previously reported that
ICBC could pay as much as 2 billion euros ($2.76 billion) for
Pioneer. Such as deal would mark the biggest-ever acquisition of
a Western money manager by an Asian company.
There is more urgency for Chinese banks to accelerate global
growth in response to a slowing market at home and as the
country's leadership change precipitates more financial sector
reforms, further pressuring margins.
The global ambitions also come at a time when European banks
are retreating from the asset management business in a bid to
repair crisis-battered balance sheets.
"It would be a very significant development because it
clearly would make a big difference to their (ICBC)
credentials," said Stewart Aldcroft, a senior advisor in Asia
Pacific for Citi Securities and Fund Services.
Media reports have indicated that Unicredit plans to list or
sell Pioneer, which operates in 27 countries including India and
Singapore. The bank declined to comment on those reports earlier
Unicredit declined to comment on ICBC's interest.
In an emailed statement, an ICBC spokesman denied that it
was in talks with Pioneer.
ICBC, the world's largest bank by market value, has not made
a formal offer but has communicated its interest to the asset
manager, the person said, declining to be identified.
The Chinese bank bought 80 percent of Standard Bank
Argentina SA from Standard Bank London Holdings Plc
for an estimated $600 million in cash in 2011.
The bank also formed a fund management joint venture with
Credit Suisse Group AG in 2005.
UniCredit, meanwhile, has been seeking to downsize amid
record financial losses and a restructuring plan aimed at
The Milan-based lender had tried to sell Pioneer four years
ago, but abandoned that plan shortly after Federico Ghizzoni
took over as chief executive in 2010.
Several European banks, including Lloyds, Santander
and Societe Generale, have sold their asset
management businesses over the past year.
($1 = 0.7249 Euros)
(Additional reporting by Stephen Jewkes and Gianluca Semeraro
in MILAN; Editing by Michael Flaherty and Ryan Woo)