September 20, 2016 / 7:15 PM / 3 years ago

Three main contenders in bidding for Unicredit's Pioneer: sources

LONDON (Reuters) - Three bidders have emerged as the main contenders to buy UniCredit’s (CRDI.MI) fund management arm Pioneer, in a deal which could net 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion) for Italy’s largest bank, sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

Italian insurer Assicurazioni Generali (GASI.MI), the country’s largest asset manager, French group Amundi (AMUN.PA), Europe’s biggest asset manager, and an Italian consortium led by Poste Italiane (PST.MI) have all made rival offers, the sources said.

These bids are seen to be ahead of the pack, the sources said, with other offers involving French firms Axa (AXAF.PA) and Natixis (CNAT.PA), Australia’s Macquarie (MQG.AX), German insurer Allianz (ALVG.DE) and British group Aberdeen Asset Management ADN.L.

UniCredit, Generali, Amundi, Poste Italiane and Macquarie declined to comment while officials at the other companies were not immediately available for comment.

The successful sale is crucial for the Italian bank, which is seeking to plug a gap in its capital requirements estimated to be as big as 8 billion euros and wants to clinch a deal by November, even though the deadline for non-binding bids only closed on Monday, the sources said.

The sale process, led by U.S. banks JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley, will gather pace in the coming weeks, with UniCredit granting access to Pioneer’s books ahead of a deadline for binding offers in late October, the sources said.

The Italian bank wants to raise up to 3 billion euros from the sale of Pioneer, which has over 220 billion euros of assets under management.

ITALIAN CHAMPION

French boss Jean-Pierre Mustier, appointed in July, may need to decide between a French and an Italian deal, the sources said, adding that a so-called “Italian solution” would be welcomed by the government.

Poste Italiane has teamed up with state-backed bank Cassa Depositi e Prestiti [CDP.UL] and asset manager Anima (ANIM.MI), a company where it holds a 10.32 percent stake, and wants to offer more investment products to Italian savers through its network of 13,000 branches across the country.

But Poste Italiane lacks the international expertise of global players such as Generali and Amundi who are better placed to negotiate Pioneer’s licenses to operate in foreign markets, one of the sources said.

Amundi, which has almost $1 trillion of assets under management, was created from the merger of the asset management arms of French banks Credit Agricole (CAGR.PA) and Societe Generale (SOGN.PA) in 2010 and is now valued at 7.5 billion euros, having been listed on Euronext Paris last November.

FIRE SALE

UniCredit is currently conducting a wide-ranging review of its businesses with a view to selling more assets and reduce the size of any share issue.

An Intermonte report on Monday said a sale of Pioneer for 3 billion euros would add 0.5-0.6 percentage points to UniCredit’s core capital adequacy ratio.

Chief Executive Jean-Pierre Mustier is expected to unveil a strategic and capital-boosting plan at the end of November and wants to have a clear idea of how much he is likely to raise from the sale of Pioneer before then.

But he might decide to launch a share issue only after Banca Monte dei Paschi (BMPS.MI) has completed its own cash call early next year, two of the sources said, so as not to interfere with his weaker rival’s fundraising efforts.

Meanwhile the sale of Pioneer is long overdue. UniCredit gave up in July on trying to combine it with Spanish bank Santander’s (SAN.MC) asset management arm in a 2.75 billion-euro deal first agreed in April last year.

Since then the bank has been looking for another industry player rather than a private equity fund to buy Pioneer, hoping to fetch a better price based on the synergies of a combination with another asset manager.

($1 = 0.8955 euros)

Additional reporting by Francesca Landini, Gianluca Semeraro and Silvia Aloisi in Milan; Editing by Greg Mahlich

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