Intesa Sanpaolo, Italy’s biggest retail bank, said it had started “very preliminary” talks with Hellman & Friedman to sell a stake in the bank’s asset manager, Banca Fideuram, to the US private equity group.
Hellman & Friedman had expressed an interest in buying a minority stake during the planned initial public offering of Banca Fideuram, the bank said, without giving further details.
A market source said the US private equity group was interested in acquiring a stake of five to 15 per cent, as reported by Rome’s Il Messaggero newspaper.
Intesa Sanpaolo had planned to launch the IPO as early as June, but market conditions could delay the process until after August. Analysts have said that Intesa Sanpaolo could list up to 60 per cent of its asset manager which is valued at about €3bn ($3.8bn).
The Italian lender is looking to sell Fideuram as part of plans to raise as much as €8bn from asset disposals to boost its capital ratios. In December, it sold its securities services business for $1.87bn in cash to State Street in the US.
Banca Fideuram reported first-quarter net profits of €63.5m, up 29.9 per cent from the same period of last year. Total clients assets under management were €69.5bn, up 2.5 per cent from the end of last year. Hellman & Friedman declined to comment.
UK and US private equity groups were last year queuing up to examine potential bids for Fideuram, including CVC Capital Partners, Apax Partners, TPG, Bain Capital and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.
Italian private equity firms were also poring over the deal, and at one stage Exor, the investment company that manages the Agnelli family’s assets, had emerged as a potential bidder.
San Francisco-based Hellman & Friedman confirmed its position as one of the world’s biggest private equity groups by raising $8.8bn for its new fund last year.
The US group has invested in several asset managers, including Artisan Group, the US fund manager; and Mondrian Investment Partners, the London-based fund manager.
It also has a stake in Gartmore, the UK asset management group, which completed an initial public offering in December. However, Gartmore’s shares have fallen by a third following the temporary suspension of its star hedge fund manager.
The planned IPO of Fideuram follows a string of asset management disposals by some of the UK’s biggest banks.
Barclays received $13.5bn from Blackrock for its Barclays Global Investors business in June 2009, while Lloyds Banking Group last year agreed to sell its Insight asset management business to Bank of New York Mellon for £235m.
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