Intesa SP Mulls Fideuram Sale to Generali -Source

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo ISP.MI is considering selling its Fideuram asset management unit to insurer Generali in return for cash and control of an insurance joint venture, a source close to the situation said.

"Intesa Sanpaolo could sort out its fragmented insurance business ... by selling Fideuram to Generali GASI.MI in exchange for the other 50 percent of Intesa Vita and a substantial amount of cash," the source told Reuters on Tuesday.

A Generali spokeswoman said it was not studying any proposal to buy Fideuram, while an Intesa spokesman referred to a denial on Jan. 11 when the bank said newspaper speculation of a sale of Fideuram to Banca Generali BGN.MI, which is controlled by Generali, were "without any foundation."

Intesa Sanpaolo, Italy’s second-largest bank by market capitalization, already owns 50 percent of Intesa Vita, its life insurance venture with Generali.

The Milan-based bank, Italy’s biggest in terms of retail branches, was asked to spin off part of its insurance business, mostly in southern Italy, as a condition for winning regulatory approval for its merger last year.

In addition to insurance interests with Generali, the insurer is one of Intesa Sanpaolo’s biggest shareholders.

Last weekend, Intesa Sanpaolo’s executive board chairman Enrico Salza said separating the bank’s asset management company from the rest of the group was a possibility.

He was speaking just after Bank of Italy Governor Mario Draghi called for asset managers to be run separately from banking groups as a way of stemming a fall in managed assets.

Draghi had criticized the “disappointing” response of asset managers to the central bank’s calls for structural reform.

He said asset managers should plan their growth independently from parent banks and said the Bank of Italy would promote a working group to study changes to rules necessary to relaunch the battered industry.

Reporting by Claudia de Lillo, writing by Jo Winterbottom, editing by Will Waterman