UniCredit chief executive Alessandro Profumo resigned yesterday, his high-flying tenure at Italy’s biggest bank halted by a row over Libyan shareholders and lagging results.
Profumo, Europe’s longest-serving bank chief, had steered UniCredit’s rise from a regional bank to a pan-European player with operations in 22 countries.
Analysts say his departure could leave Italy’s most international bank rudderless while it struggles to recover from the financial crisis after several acquisitions.
Profumo, 53, said he had stepped down in a letter to the bank’s board ahead of an emergency meeting on Libya’s growing investments in UniCredit. He had been at the helm since 1997.
“Profumo has resigned. He announced it in a letter to the board directors,” a source said,
on condition of anonymity.
A second source close to the situation said a shortlist of candidates had already been drafted to replace the man Italian media dub “Mr Arrogance” and “Alessandro the Great”. The board is understood to have given chairman Dieter Rampl three weeks to find a replacement. Rampl is expected to be named interim boss.
Shareholders and politicians have accused Profumo of letting Libya increase its holding in UniCredit, the Italian bank hardest hit by the financial crisis.
UNICREDIT IN A NUTSHELL | ITALY’S BIGGEST BANK
UniCredit operates in 22 European countries and is the biggest lender in eastern and central Europe. It has a presence in 50 markets. The bank had 9,600 branches and more than 162,000 employees at 30 June.
Top shareholders are Italian investment bank Mediobanca with 5.1 per cent stake, Abu Dhabi’s Aabar investment company with 4.9 per cent, Central Bank of Libya with 4.9 per cent and Italy’s Cariverona foundation with 4.6 per cent. Others include Italy’s CRT foundation at 3.3 per cent, the Libyan Investment Authority with 2.59 per cent, and German insurer Allianz with 2 per cent.
Tracing its roots back to a 15th century municipal pawn shop in Bologna, the modern bank was created in 1997 from the state-owned Credito Italiano.
In 2005, UniCredit made its first big cross-border move buying Germany’s HVB Group. In 2007, it bought Capitalia.
In the first half, net profit was €669m (£567m) and operating income €13.3bn. Total assets at end of June were €955bn.
The bank has boosted its capital in the last two years, tapping shareholders for €3bn in early 2009 and for another €4bn in January 2010.
City A.M. Reporter