Secret French bank merger deal denied

City A.M. Reporter
FRENCH bank Credit Agricole said it had no plans for talks on a merger with rival Soci&eacute;t&eacute; G&eacute;n&eacute;rale and insurer Groupama, after reports that&nbsp; Agricole was studying such a deal.<br /><br />&ldquo;Credit Agricole says it has not engaged Soci&eacute;t&eacute; G&eacute;n&eacute;rale and Groupama in any talks and has no intention of doing so,&rdquo; an Agricole spokeswoman said.<br /><br />Le Monde newspaper, citing its own sources, said Agricole chairman Rene Carron and chief executive Georges Pauget were studying this possible three-way merger in the &ldquo;greatest secrecy&rdquo;.<br /><br />It added Agricole would initially approach Groupama over a merger. Groupama and Agricole would then together seek a merger with SocGen, in which Groupama already owns a small stake. However, the newspaper added that Agricole&rsquo;s own regional retail banks -- which control the majority of Agricole&rsquo;s capital -- were against any such transaction. <br /><br />Agricole and SocGen already have joint ventures in fund management and via their Newedge brokerage and there has already been speculation that the two banks might at some point envisage a full merger. SocGen has long been seen as a possible takeover target since it narrowly escaped a bid from cross-town rival BNP in 1999.<br /><br />SocGen&rsquo;s &euro;4.9bn trading loss in January 2008 further weakened the bank, although it has since recovered from the incident, which it blamed on unauthorised deals carried out by junior trader Jerome Kerviel.