Italy's Banco BPM to assess possible insurance partnerships

FILE PHOTO: A woman walks in front of the Banca Popolare di Milano (BPM) bank in downtown Milan, Italy, January 29, 2016. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

MILAN (Reuters) -Banco BPM will assess potential partnerships for its insurance business after receiving several expressions of interest from leading players in the sector, a spokesperson for Italy’s third-largest bank said.

The move will pit Banco BPM’s main shareholder, French bank Credit Agricole, against other suitors eyeing a ‘bancassurance’ deal with the Italian lender including French insurer AXA, according to people familiar with the matter.

Credit Agricole this month emerged as the biggest investor in Banco BPM with a 9.2% stake which the French group said was aimed at expanding the scope of strategic partnerships between the two banks, currently focused on consumer credit.

The investment occurred just before Banco BPM took the first step in a strategy unveiled in November to bring in-house its insurance business by buying its partners’ stakes in the ventures.

Banco BPM, which currently partners with France’s Covea and Generali-owned Cattolica, announced last week that it would acquire full ownership of its life insurance joint-venture with Covea.

“In line with the Nov. 5 strategic plan, the main option for the group is internalising the insurance business by the end of 2023,” the spokesperson said.

“However, given several expressions of interest from leading insurance players, the bank has started a process to compare the terms of the offers and evaluate potential partnerships as long as they are in line with the best market conditions.”

Reporting by Valentina Za; editing by Giulio Piovaccari and Paul Simao