Poste Italiane eyes asset management deals after solid results

MILAN (Reuters) - Poste Italiane PST.MI said on Wednesday it could expand its asset management business and offer new investment products through its 13,000 branches after reporting a nearly 30 percent rise in 9-month operating profit.

The national post office, once a byword for inefficient public administration, has turned into a conglomerate that offers banking and insurance services on top of traditional mail and parcel delivery.

It was partly privatize a year ago and is now focusing on asset management, parcel delivery and transaction banking to grow and offset a drastic fall in traditional postal services.

“Because we are a powerful distribution network, we may look at opportunities to grow in asset management,” CEO Francesco Caio told an analyst conference call, adding the group would take a disciplined approach to potential acquisitions.

Poste CFO Luigi Ferraris added the group had room to fund acquisitions through debt, given its 274 million euro net industrial financial surplus at the end of September.

Ferraris also said Poste had planned to extract value from its real estate assets, which could give the group more financial firepower next year if needed.

The two top managers made no mention of any target, but sources have previously said the group could present on Thursday a binding offer to buy UniCredit's CRDI.MI asset manager Pioneer in a deal worth more than 3 billion euros.

The state-controlled group is expected to table a bid for Pioneer together with Italian asset gatherer Anima Holding ANIM.MI and state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), sources have said.

Amundi AMUN.PA, Europe's biggest asset manager, U.S.-based Ameriprise Financial AMP.N, Australia's Macquarie MQG.AX and Scottish Aberdeen Asset Management ADN.L are also expected to bid for Pioneer.

Poste Italiane said its earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rose in the first nine months of the year to 1.196 billion euros ($1.3 billion), boosted by continued growth of its insurance business and a capital gain from the sale of a stake in Visa Europe.

Analysts were expecting an operating profit of 1.146 billion euros in the period.

Revenues were up nearly 8 percent year-on-year to 25.7 billion euros, in line with a consensus of 25.68 billion euros.

Editing by Tom Heneghan