Italy's SPAXS shortlists five banks in acquisition hunt

MILAN, Feb 1 (Reuters) - SPAXS, an Italian company set up to buy a bank and develop it into an online lender focusing on small businesses, has short-listed five small Italian banks, the new firm said on Thursday.

Veteran banker Corrado Passera and Andrea Clamer, former head of the non-performing loan division of IFIS, showed there is investor demand for Italian financial assets by raising 600 million euros in an IPO of SPAXS.

Saddled with one quarter of Europe’s nearly $1 trillion debt pile, which has rattled investor confidence in them, Italian banks have become more selective in their lending and compete to lend to low-risk firms, squeezing profit margins, while many small businesses find it hard to access funds.

“We hope to close the deal in the next three, four months”, Passera said, adding that the special purpose acquisition company intends to turn a small lender into a web-based bank.

Shares in SPAXS, which will use up to 10 percent of the amount raised in the IPO for the acquisition, were 4.04 percent higher at 1038 GMT on their market debut on the alternative investment segment of the Milan bourse.

SPAXS will use the remaining funds for investments and recapitalising the bank it buys.

The new company would target lending to small businesses and would also have a restructuring and a non-performing loan division to help firms in difficulty. (Reporting by Elisa Anzolin; editing by Giulia Segreti and Alexander Smith)