The market today is reading UnipolSai’s move on Popolare di Sondrio (it acquired 4%, rising to 6.9%) as an anticipatory move of a merger between the Valtelllinese bank and Bper. The latter, in fact, gives over 4.4% to 2.04 euros to Piazza Affari. Unipol controls the insurance company that took over the share of the Lombard institute and holds 19% of the Modena group.
According to the analysts of Mediobanca Securities and also of Intesa Sanpaolo, this surprise operation does not exclude a possible move by Bper on Banco Bpm even if the possibilities are down compared to the past.
The merger between Milan and Modena “would benefit all parties involved, including Unipol which would have the possibility of expanding the bancassurance partnership on Banco Bpm’s franchise, since in 2023 the agreement with Cattolica could be concluded and the partnership with Covea is about to expire “, remember the analysts of Piazzetta Cuccia. Yet, today Unipol is ready to invest 125 million euros in Sondrio to build a 9.5% stake, add the brokers, even if for now the stake stops at 6.9%.
Unipol and Sondrio share an insurance partnership through Arca Vita, of which the Valtellina bank holds approximately 15% and Unipol 63%. The distribution agreement expires in December 2022. According to Mediobanca, “Unipol’s move could be framed in the context of the ongoing consolidation process of the banking sector”, facilitating the role of Sondrio which should transform itself into a joint stock company by 2021, provided that the Council of State, shortly, validates the reform from popular to Spa.
According to Mediobanca, the move “does not necessarily mean that Unipol privileges only the Bper-Sondrio option as an alternative to a merger with Bper”, since an M&A between Milan and Modena “would increase bancassurance business by 3 times in the space of a couple years, also taking into account the former Ubi branches recently acquired by Bper “. Insurance business is one of the businesses that today guarantee the best margins in the banking sector.
Furthermore, second reason, a possible Banco Bpm-Bper agreement “has a sense of urgency” since neither Bper nor Sondrio have Dta to account for (and therefore cannot draw on the tax bonus payable by the prey company) by the end of the year, as required by the Sostegni Bis Decree. And this “could open the door to a possible three-way merger, first between Bper and Sondrio and later with Bper-Banco Bpm”. Mediobanca and outperform on Bper, neutral on Banco Bpm and Popolare di Sondrio.
The UnipolSai operation, Intesa Sanpaolo argues today, favors a potential merger between Bper and Sondrio “by lowering, but not eliminating, the possibility of an agreement between Banco Bpm and Bper”, a fact that could also allow the new group to benefit from the transformation of Banco Bpm’s DTA, since the Modenese group has none and neither does Popolare di Sondrio. The fact remains that the reality led by CEO Giuseppe Castagna “remains an interesting target for Unicredit and the lower probability of a Banco Bpm-Bper agreement could increase Unicredit’s acquisition expectations on Banco Bpm”. (All rights reserved)

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