no one pays cash, everyone studies exchange rates -

no one pays cash, everyone studies exchange rates -

dFrom market news to repertoire piece the step is not short. But that's what's happening to a evergreen of the last eighteen months in Piazza Affari: Unicredit is moving towards Piazza Meda, headquarters of Banco Bpm. A first assault on the stagecoach was registered at the beginning of 2022. It is said that, due to a desire for revenge against Unicredit which had recently left the negotiating table on MPS, someone blew the silence order by blurting the plan to the four twenty, to the point that Banco Bpm's stock prices soared, making all the accounts of the possible exchange into Unicredit shares useless.

Since then, cyclically, the script repeats itself. Rumors of a possible operation, announcements of various kinds also with the blessing of important shareholders, the ratio of shares that is readjusting, parts that are moving away again. Already seen.


The issue of consolidating the domestic credit market, pending the European rules making cross-border transactions easier, remains central in any case. Above all, the geography of the credit industry suggests that, behind the two leaders Intesa Sanpaolo and Unicredit and ahead of the smaller banks, an aggregative reorganization is possible. Whether you want to proceed towards the creation of a real third pole or further strengthen one of the two treads, it's an open choice. But that area in the middle where Banco Bpm, Bper Banca and Monte dei Paschi di Siena are located today deserves to be considered from a different perspective from the current one.

Unicredit's aims on Banco Bpm are justified by the bank's positioning target in the richest and most economically lively area of ​​the country. Precisely where Unicredit, by virtue of past choices, is less present today and where instead its biggest competitor, Carlo Messina's Intesa Sanpaolo, daily draws raison d'être and justification for its rich balance sheets. A kind of battle for the Duchy of Lombardy, in which Bper Banca has also decided to participate in the last two years.

The agreement with Intesa, contextual to the takeover bid for Ubi, has opened up a very rich market for Bper, that of the Lombardy provinces. But at the same time it has put a little more than a regional structure in crisis, with the center of gravity in Modena, which now finds itself having to chase after trains that have already launched. If Ubi weren't enough, in more recent times Bper has also acquired Carige and the scope of the technological infrastructure is showing all its current limits, despite the efforts of Elvio Sonnino and his staff.

What is relevant in this regard is suggested by the numbers. Last week, on these pages, the usual comparison between the quarterly financial statements of the main Italian commercial banks was proposed. To better understand the logic of the market, let us recall the values ​​expressed as at 31 March 2023 by Banco Bpm and Bper Banca.

The two budgets are in some respects superimposable. Indeed, Piero Luigi Montani's Bper, in some aspects, was even better than Banco Bpm. If for «Net interest» Banco Bpm wins (742.9 million against 725.9 million), the items «Net commissions», «Operating income» and «Net profit» are in favor of Bper. Which would put the former Modena popular at the top of the list of possible target. Last Friday, May 26, 2023, the stock market capitalization instead clearly rewarded the bank in Piazza Meda: 5.792 billion euros for Banco Bpm; 3.497 billion for Bper Banca. Why such a large difference, in the order of 2.3 billion euros, which is worth about 65 percent of the difference?

Banks, the waltz of quotations affects risk: nobody pays cash, everyone is studying exchange rates

The answer can only be found in the shareholding. Controlling Banco Bpm's capital are the French Crédit Agricole with 9.18 percent, the American funds of Capital research with 4.99 percent, the Norwegian Norges Bank with 3.32 percent. Under this quota, some Italian foundations and funds bought shares, from Crt to Enpam, from the Forensic Fund to the Manodori Foundation, which then came together in a consultation pact which brings together a total of 8.33 per cent of the capital of Bpm bank. Therefore, approximately 26 per cent of the capital is attributable to institutional investors, which however are mostly non-Italian operators. These must then be joined by 4.7 percent of the capital in the portfolio of Davide Leone's funds. On the other hand, the composition of Bper's capital is of a completely different nature. Where the Unipol insurance group has 19.9 percent and the Sardinia Foundation 10.2. These two shareholders alone are worth more than 30 percent of the bank. Then, here too there is Norges, with 3 percent, but the relative majority of the capital is in two portfolios that share visions and strategies and with solid Italian roots. The passport could become an important discriminant in the moment of a strategic decision. Therefore, those 2.3 billion of different valuation of the two credit institutions should be considered as a prize for contestability. If Agricole is one of the major European banks, as evidenced by the table on this page, ammunition is not lacking even for the Unipol insurance group, certainly ready to board any enemy ship that approaches

The Sienese side

Two considerations remain. Unicredit could act for cash (it has enough supplies) and silence every voice. But for now the policy of buy-back and a high return to shareholders in the form of dividends seems sufficient to ensure serene navigation in times that appear anything but tranquil.

The Monte dei Paschi di Siena remains, where Luigi Lovaglio is writing a story of conversion to profits that few thought possible. The derelict Monte has in fact brought home 235 million in net profits in the first quarter of the year. It means that in December it could approach one billion. The Italian government is engaged with the European authorities to exit the capital, today it controls 64 percent of the bank. He will do it. But in the meantime, Lovaglio's work makes it possible to collect important coupons and to think more calmly about an exit strategy. Whether you are oriented towards the creation of a real third pole, in this case involving Banco Bpm or Bper, or by selling share packages on the market. The former is a more complex and more ambitious operation and would have an undeniable return in terms of competitiveness for the sector, determined by a higher level of competition. But these are political choices, which the numbers can tell only up to a certain point.

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