June 21, 2018 / 6:52 PM / a month ago

Italy's Unipol buying further 5.2 percent of BPER, could buy more

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy’s Unipol (UNPI.MI) said on Thursday it was buying 5.2 percent of BPER Banca (EMII.MI) to take its overall holding in the regional lender to 15 percent, adding it could buy more.

Unipol, which controls Italy’s No. 2 insurer UnipolSai (US.MI), said it would pay no more than 4.72 euros per share for the BPER stake, indicating a maximum outlay of 118 million euros.

The deal, subject to certain conditions, is part of Unipol’s plans to boost the medium- and long-term growth prospects of BPER with which it already has a bancassurance partnership agreement.

Unipol recently completed a restructuring of its own banking unit, Unipol Banca, and has said merging the unit with another lender is a possibility.

There has been press speculation of late that BPER could buy Unipol Banca.

In April Unipol CEO Carlo Cimbri said his group would support a new share issue at BPER if it used the cash for a radical bad loan clean-up.

“During the next 6 months Unipol will consider a potential further increase of its shareholding in BPER in one or more tranches,” the group said in its Thursday statement.

Unipol, which currently owns 9.87 percent of BPER, said it had already won clearance from the European Central Bank and Italian authorities to take its shareholding above 10 percent.

“Based on the applicable rules and the authorisations received, the direct or indirect shareholding which may be held by Unipol in BPER cannot exceed approximately 19.9 percent,” it added.

BPER shares stood at 4.455 euros at the end of trade on Thursday.

Additional reporting by Andrea Mandala; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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