MILAN Feb 7 Italy's UniCredit is
looking for partners interested in its unit that manages
problematic debt for the group and other entities and will ask
for bids by the end of this month, two sources close to the
matter said on Friday.
Italy's biggest bank by assets, which is already working on
several transactions to move bad debt off its balance sheet,
aims to find buyers for part or all of its Credit Management
Bank unit, according to the sources.
UniCredit declined to comment.
The unit, based in Verona, manages more than 40 billion
euros ($54.4 billion) in bad debt.
"My understanding is that UniCredit will contact potential
investors and ask them to submit bids by the end of February,"
one of the sources said.
The deal could be a way for UniCredit to free up capital
that is now held to back the problematic loans managed by the
unit. Selling a stake in the unit could pave the way for the
investor taking up parts of UniCredit's bad debt portfolio in
the future, according to one source.
In December a top executive at Italy's Cerved Group
, a company that provides business data to clients and
advises banks and companies on credit management, told Reuters
it was interested in Credit Management Bank.
The disposal of a stake in Credit Management Bank would add
to other initiatives UniCredit is working on to improve the
management of its loans and to free up funds to increase lending
to Italian companies.
"The debate on how to manage and reduce problematic debt is
eventually heating up and UniCredit is getting ready," the
lender's Chief Executive Federico Ghizzoni said on Friday,
without commenting on specific transactions.
($1 = 0.7353 euros)
(Reporting by Francesca Landini, Massimo Gaia and Elisa
Anzolin; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)