Abu Dhabi set to raise stake in UniCredit

Marion Dakers
ABU Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund Aabar yesterday threw its support behind beleaguered Italian bank UniCredit by pledging to raise its stake to 6.5 per cent.

Aabar said it would increase its holding through its Luxembourg subsidiary as part of UniCredit’s ongoing €7.5bn (£6.2bn) rights issue.

“We are intending to participate in the rights increase and actively support UniCredit’s management and franchise in the future,” said Aabar chairman Khadem Al Qubaisi in a statement.

“We believe in the fundamental value of the bank and its importance in the Italian and European context… It is our belief that the success of the current rights issue will help strengthen UniCredit’s capital base and bring with it a more positive outlook for the future.”

Morgan Stanley is acting for Aabar on the transaction.

Aabar has been an investor in UniCredit since March 2009, and is set to become its biggest single shareholder when it boosts its holding from its current 4.99 per cent.

Other big shareholders in UniCredit include Mediobanca, several Libyan organisations and Blackrock.

UniCredit shares have fallen sharply since it announced a steep discount on the price of its rights issue, which began last week and is due to end on 27 January. It is regarded as a crucial test of investors’ confidence in the European banking sector.

The firm priced the issue at €1.94, a 69 per cent discount to its share price at the time, in a bid to drum up sufficient interest, though several large investors have yet to announce whether they will take new shares.