Now UniCredit has shed its interest in this Polish bank, as Italian banks scramble to safeguard themselves post-referendum

Hayley Kirton
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Italian banks are getting their houses in order (Source: Getty)

Shares in UniCredit rose today after the Italian lender revealed it was ditching its stake in Polish Bank Pekao.

Polish state organisations Powszechny Zaklad Ubezpieczen and Polish Development Fund have snapped up 33 per cent of the stake in Pekao from UniCredit for €2.4bn (£2bn), with the sale expected to complete in mid-2017, while UniCredit will list equity-linked certificates for its remaining stake, equal to seven per cent of the total shareholding.

Italy's largest bank by assets has been busy scrambling to streamline its business over the last few months. Earlier this week, UniCredit announced it was finalising the details of a €3.5bn sale of its asset management division to Amundi.

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The bank will host its capital markets day next Tuesday, where relatively new chief executive Jean Pierre Mustier is expected to unveil a turnaround plan for the lender, with many reports suggesting a rights issue for as much as €13bn could be on the cards.

"In July, we announced the launch of an in-depth strategic review aimed at reinforcing and optimising UniCredit's capital position, improving profitability, and ensuring continuous transformation of operations, while maintaining flexibility to seize value creating opportunities," said Mustier of today's sale announcement. "This transaction is an early illustration of that review and I am pleased we have reached an agreement with Powszechny Zaklad Ubezpieczen and Polish Development Fund for the sale of a stake in Pekao."

Shares in UniCredit are up one per cent at €2.51 at time of writing.

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The future of Italian banks, which were already having a tough time, has been thrown up in the air by the recent 'no' vote in the country's constitutional referendum.

The outcome of the vote prompted Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to hand in his notice, which is particularly bad news for lenders. It was widely speculated that Renzi locked horns with the European Commission over the summer as he tried to convince decision makers to allow him to go around banking rules to let him inject more capital into the banking system.

The country's oldest lender, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, is currently trying to iron out the final details of a rescue plan which would boost its capital by €5bn.

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It is understood the consortium of banks responsible for underwriting the plan met on Monday to discuss the next steps.

Then, yesterday, Monte dei Paschi revealed it had approached the European Central Bank to extend the deadline for the deal to 20 January 2017, leading to increasing speculation that the state could be lining up plans for a bailout.

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