(Adds full name of CEO in third paragraph)
CERNOBBIO, Italy, April 5 UniCredit is
trying to sell a chunk of its non-performing loans together with
its debt collection unit, the chief executive of the Italian
bank said on Saturday, citing strong investor interest for
distressed assets in the country.
Italy's biggest lender by assets had given prospective
buyers until last Thursday to send non-binding offers for its
Credit Management Bank unit, which manages more than a third of
Italy's non-performing loans.
"We are still at a very preliminary stage, but investor
interest appears to be high," CEO Federico Ghizzoni said, adding
the bank is seeking a partner for its unit to make it even more
"Another reason for the sale is to try to shed some of our
doubtful loans to address Italian banks' main problem," he said,
speaking on the sidelines of a business conference in Cernobbio,
on the shores of Lake Como in northern Italy.
Lenders in the country had accumulated non-performing loans
worth 160.4 billion euros ($219.6 billion) on their
balance-sheets as of January.
With Italy slowly emerging from a two-year recession, banks
are trying to shed some of these assets to make space for fresh
lending to companies.
Sources close to the situation told Reuters UniCredit has
put on the block a non-performing loan portfolio of around 4
billion euros, together with a majority stake in its
Ghizzoni declined to comment either on the size of the
portfolio under disposal or the value of the unit.
Credit Management Bank manages more than 40 billion euros of
commercial and consumer loans, of which around one quarter was
directly owned by the unit at the end of 2012.
UniCredit's CEO also refused to give any details on the
strategy of the bank regarding its asset manager Pioneer
Investment, after a person familiar with the matter said on
Wednesday Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (ICBC)
was considering a bid for the unit.
($1 = 0.7303 Euros)
(Reporting by Francesca Landini; Editing by David Holmes)