MILAN Credit Agricole (CAGR.PA) is watching for opportunities in Italy's banking consolidation as it pursues plans to acquire Unicredit's asset manager Pioneer.
Credit Agricole has sold assets and pulled out of markets such as Greece to meet tougher post-crisis regulation and combat tougher economic conditions, while focusing on activities in France and Italy.
Italy's government has sought to spur mergers among its lenders to help them cut costs and boost profitability, after a deep recession lifted problem loans to one fifth of domestic output.
"Obviously, we are looking at opportunities and we do not exclude some possible adjustments," Credit Agricole's deputy chief executive Xavier Musca said when asked if the bank planned to participate in the wave of mergers and acquisitions in Italy.
He added that "any adjustments" should be aligned with the group's capital targets.
"We are not a national Italian bank. We are a regional bank, present in various regions, mostly in the North of Italy. This is a model that fits us perfectly."
Credit Agricole, the third-biggest French-listed bank, has increased its exposure to Italy after Amundi struck a 3.6 billion euro ($3.8 billion) deal to buy Pioneer Investments.
"We have confidence in Italy, we are committed to it," Yves Perrier, chief executive of asset manager Amundi told journalists during a press conference.
Amundi said it will launch its cash call to finance the deal next week. It will pay for Pioneer using a 1.4 billion euro share issue, selling 0.6 billion euros in debt and paying cash.
This follows an expansion spree in retail banking which started in 2007 when Credit Agricole bought its key Italian assets, Cariparma, Friuladria, as well as some of Banca Intesa branches in 2007.
Credit Agricole targets 3 percent annual revenue growth in Cariparma over the next three years. Asked if the bank plans to review the target to adjust for Pioneer's acquisition, Perrier said it would present adjusted figures later this year.
(Reporting by Maya Nikolaeva; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)