Barclays is in talks to buy up to 135 branches from Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena to boost its presence in the retail banking market in northern Italy, one of Europe’s richest regions.
The UK bank is understood to be in advanced negotiations with MPS, which agreed to sell 150 of its branches to satisfy anti-trust concerns arising from its €9bn (£8.3bn) purchase two years ago of Antonveneta, a bank in the Veneto region of north-east Italy.
It is understood that MPS, which is Italy’s third-largest retail bank, had been seeking €5m a branch and that Barclays was eyeing a price of €3m. The final price is likely to be closer to €4m, according to people familiar with the deal, which would put a value of about €540m on the transaction.
Barclays already has branches and outlets in cities in northern Italy, including Milan, and an MPS deal would expand that presence to about 300 branches. One person close to Barclays said a deal could happen in a matter of weeks, provided there was agreement. “We are also looking at other stuff in Italy, so this is not a must-do deal,” the person said.
Barclays is eyeing expansion across Europe, in Germany, Spain, Portugal and Russia. It is also in talks to buy the banking operations of Standard Life, the assurer, with that deal also likely to be sealed this month or next.
It is on a mission to expand its retail bank aggressively as it seeks to realign the balance of profits away from the investment banking business that was boosted by last year’s acquisition of Lehman Brothers’ US operations.
MPS and Barclays declined to comment on Thursday. Goldman Sachs and Rothschild are advising MPS. Morgan Stanley is advising Barclays.
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