* UniCredit to transfer bad loans to securitisation vehicles
* Will raise bad loan coverage to 77 pct ahead of sale
* Deal implies sector would need 40 bln euros in writedowns
By Valentina Za
MILAN, Dec 13 UniCredit has raised the
bar for other Italian banks by announcing a radical clean-up of
its balance sheet through the sale of bad loans worth 17.7
billion euros ($19 billion).
Italy's biggest lender by assets said on Tuesday that it
plans to raise 13 billion euros in a share issue early next year
to offset the capital hit from 8 billion euros in fourth-quarter
loan writedowns to pave the way for the sale of the debt.
The move heaps pressure on the bank's peers to follow suit,
with Reuters' calculations based on central bank data showing
that Italian lenders as a whole would need 40 billion euros in
writedowns to match UniCredit's latest provision levels.
"We've taken some bold actions because self-help is always
the best thing," CEO Jean Pierre Mustier said. "It is no secret
we had an issue with legacy assets in Italy."
Mustier told analysts he had signed two accords overnight to
transfer the bad loans to separate vehicles in which U.S. funds
Fortress Investment Group and PIMCO would take majority
stakes -- the biggest such deal in Italy so far. The debts would
then be sold off gradually.
Italian lenders are under pressure from the European Central
Bank (ECB) to offload soured debts, which rose to 356 billion
euros after a deep recession.
Banks have held onto them because their book value is higher
than their market price, meaning they would be sold at a loss,
burning through capital.
Worries about capital needs have sent Italian banking shares
down 40 percent this year.
SMOOTHING WAY TO DEBT SALE
UniCredit said in presentation slides that it would raise
provisions on bad loans by as much as 16.5 percentage points to
77 percent of their gross book value before transferring the
This implies a net book value of 23 cents to the euro, below
the 27 cents level at which Monte dei Paschi di Siena
is seeking to sell 28 billion euros of bad loans to
state-sponsored bailout fund Atlante to comply with ECB demands.
On average, Italian lenders price bad loans on their books
at 43 cents to the euro.
UniCredit Chief Risk Officer Massimiliano Fossati said the
provisions are designed to ease the disposal of the bad loans
being transferred and had taken into account the price of recent
Slides showed the bank now values loans that defaulted
before 2009 at as little as 6.4 cents to the euro.
UniCredit said that a group of banks had agreed to backstop
its cash call, the biggest ever by an Italian bank. But other
weak banks, such as Monte dei Paschi, are struggling to harness
investor support in the face of negative interest rates,
regulatory constraints and low Italian growth.
The Tuscan lender, which is seeking to raise 5 billion euros
this month, is expected to need state aid.
"UniCredit's bad loan sale tells us something we already
knew: this is a buyer's market and the ECB doesn't exactly help
-- as the Monte dei Paschi saga showed," said Andrea Resti, a
professor at Milan's Bocconi university and an adviser to the
European Parliament on banking supervision.
"Unfortunately, there is a lot of concern in Frankfurt about
de-risking lenders' balance sheets and perhaps not enough about
the risk of destabilising the whole sector."
($1 = 0.9427 euros)
(Editing by David Goodman)