Enel emerges as frontrunner for Italy's Mooney in joint bid with Intesa - sources

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A logo of Italian multinational energy company Enel is seen at the Milan headquarters, Italy, February 5, 2020. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo/File Photo

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LONDON, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Europe's biggest utility Enel (ENEI.MI) has emerged as a frontrunner to take control of Italian payments firm Mooney as part of a joint bidding proposal with Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MI), one of Mooney's existing investors, two sources told Reuters.

Mooney, which provides payment services across a network of 50,000 betting shops across Italy, is controlled by CVC Capital Partners while Intesa owns 30% of the business.

The consortium of Enel and Intesa Sanpaolo is expected to trump competition from private equity funds, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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Enel declined to comment while Intesa and CVC were not immediately available.

CVC formed Mooney by breaking up the gaming and payment operations of Italian betting firm Sisal Group, a company it bought in 2016 from investment firms Permira, Apax and Clessidra.

The London-based private equity firm hired advisers early this year to review a sale or stock market listing of the business, whose core earnings dropped 15.8% last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the termination of a contract with Postepay.

Mooney reported earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of 59.5 million euros ($67.17 million) in 2020 from 70.7 million euros in 2019.

It could be valued at between 1.2 and 1.3 billion euros in a sale, one of the sources said.

The company has also drawn interest from a series of U.S. buyout funds including Searchlight Capital but Enel's partnership with Intesa Sanpaolo is giving its bidding plan a competitive edge, the sources said.

Intesa sees Mooney as a strategic asset as it helps steering its branches towards higher-margin services like wealth management and insurance while still providing basic payment services to its retail clients.

($1 = 0.8858 euros)

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Reporting by Pamela Barbaglia and Stephen Jewkes, additional reporting by Elisa Anzolin and Valentina Za

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