Italy’s Banco Popolare in €2bn rights issue to boost its weak capital ratios

ITALY’S Banco Popolare yesterday approved the launch of a capital increase of up to €2bn (£1.78bn) to boost its capital ratios, reimburse government-backed bonds, and to support lending.

Managing and supervisory boards approved the capital increase, in the form of a rights issue, which will boost its capital ratios by 216 basis points. The issue could be carried out in the first quarter of 2011, it said.

“The mandate to the bank has sufficient flexibility to deal with the demands of strengthening capital while taking account of sales of non-core assets,” it said.

In recent weeks, the bank had denied that it was discussing a capital increase and said it was selling assets. At the end of September, it denied a newspaper report on a €2bn share offering.

The market capitalisation of Banco Popolare is about €2.8bn, making it the seventh-largest bank in Italy.

In July, the bank passed the EU’s stress test with a 7.4 per cent Tier 1 capital ratio at end 2011 under the adverse scenario and down to 7.0 per cent with the additional sovereign risk. At the end of June 2010, Tier 1 was 7.6 per cent.

In 2009, Banco Popolare was one of only four Italian banks to seek government-backed bonds – so-called Tremonti bonds after Italy’s economy minister – to shore up its capital issuing €1.450bn of these bonds.

The latest €2bn issue will be guaranteed by a bank consortium in which Mediobanca and Bank of America Merrill Lynch are global coordinators, the bank said.

Book-runners for the deal are Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, it said.

The increase is subject to approval by shareholders at a meeting likely to take place in December, it said.