UniCredit chairman says banking M&A needs European focus -La Stampa

MILAN (Reuters) -Banking mergers should be aimed at European expansion, UniCredit Chairman Pier Carlo Padoan said in a newspaper interview on Monday, warning against deals that make lenders more domestically focused.

FILE PHOTO: Italian Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan speaks during a panel entitled “Reforming the Euro Area: Views from Inside and Outside of Europe” during IMF spring meetings in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Asked about the potential for post-pandemic banking mergers and acquisitions (M&A) Padoan told La Stampa daily he expected the situation to provide an incentive for the sector to consolidate.

“We must not let banks … become more national instead of becoming more European,” he said.

“There is a scenario, not necessarily the most likely one, in which there could be more concentration in Italy and fewer cross-border deals. This would be like going against the European Banking Union.”

With operations spanning across 13 markets, UniCredit is Italy’s only bank that regulators deem to be of global systemic relevance.

Under new Chief Executive Andrea Orcel, UniCredit in October walked away from a deal with Italy’s government to take on bailed-out rival Monte dei Paschi.

Asked if the deal could be revisited, Padoan said the window of opportunity had closed and UniCredit was focused on implementing the strategic plan Orcel unveiled this month.

Orcel, a veteran dealmaker formerly at UBS and Merrill Lynch, has not ruled M&A saying UniCredit could consider deals that strengthen its franchise and returns for shareholders.

Under its plan through 2024, UniCredit plans to return 16 billion euros as dividends and buybacks.

Padoan reiterated that the bank would consider M&A opportunities in Italy and abroad if they arise and are in the interest of shareholders.

Turning to organisational changes triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic he said that UniCredit wanted to turn remote working into an opportunity.

“We currently require staff in central offices to come in two days a week. Once the emergency is over, we’ll switch to a hybrid model on a voluntary basis. Naturally in branches the proportions will have to be very different.”

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