UPDATE 1-Italian asset manager Anima ready to look at M&A opportunities

(Recasts with CEO comments)

March 1 (Reuters) - Anima Holding, Italy’s biggest independent asset manager, sees several potential opportunities arising from ongoing consolidation in the country’s banking sector, CEO Alessandro Melzi D’Eril said on Monday.

A wave of mergers among Italian banks that started with last year’s takeover of UBI by rival Intesa Sanpaolo is expected to accelerate in 2021 thanks to tax incentives and pandemic-driven pressure on revenues.

Anima is considered an important asset in the game. It is one-fifth owned by Banco BPM, which is actively looking for a partner.

Banco BPM has held preliminary merger talks with rival BPER , but it is also considered a potential target for UniCredit, Italy’s second biggest bank which shed its asset management business years ago.

“Our focus and financial resources are concentrated on what will happen in terms of banking M&A,” Melzi D’Eril told Reuters in a phone interview.

Milan-based Anima said last year it had 300-400 million euros ($482 million) for potential acquisitions.

“Looking at the banks potentially involved in M&A I see several opportunities for us,” he said. “BPER is the only player that owns an asset manager, Arca, and there would be upside from a merger between Arca and Anima,” he added.

Anima also has many long-standing distribution agreements, including with Banco BPM and state-owned Monte dei Paschi di Siena, which the Treasury has been trying to sell to UniCredit.

Anima also has a contract with Creval, which is the subject of a takeover proposal from Credit Agricole Italy .

“If the deal goes through we will have to sit down and find a new equilibrium ... I think there is room for mutually satisfactory solutions,” the CEO said.

Anima’s distribution deals can only be changed by mutual agreement because they do not include break-up fees or “change of control” clauses in the event of a takeover.

Anima on Monday reported a 7% rise in 2020 net profit to 155 million euros, a touch above a company-provided consensus of 147 million, on a 6% increase in revenues.

By 1600 GMT Anima’s shares were up 5.6%, outperforming a 1.8% rise in Milan’s all-share index. ($1 = 0.8300 euros) (Additional reporting by Federica Urso. Editing by Jane Merriman)