With shareholder foundations who control around 12 per cent of the lender opposing the plan, chief executive Alessandro Profumo is understood to have told shareholders on Monday that he was ready to resign if they refused to back the proposal to streamline domestic operations.
Analysts say the plan could save Italy’s biggest bank by market value up to €800m (£724m).
UniCredit’s 10-member strategic committee approved the plan, but the bank decided to postpone a final decision on the project to a board meeting on 13 April.
“We simply need more time to deal with the project. I think this is the best solution for the bank,” chairman Dieter Rampl said in a statement.
The panel is believed to have reached a decision without disagreement among members. The bank’s board then met to approve 2009 results, due out today.
Tensions had risen on Monday when shareholder foundations argued against Profumo’s programme in one of the toughest confrontations in his 10-year tenure.
Profumo, 53, turned domestic lender UniCredit into the eurozone’s fourth-biggest bank by market value through a series of mergers that included the takeover of Germany’s HVB in 2005. It is the biggest bank in Eastern and Central Europe.