MILAN, March 15 (Reuters) - Italy’s Cassa Centrale Banca (CCB) is reconsidering the terms at which it could take a controlling stake in rival Carige in light of mounting losses at the Genoa-based bank, three sources close to the matter said on Monday.
Unlisted CCB currently holds 8% of Carige following a rescue in 2019 led by Italy’s FITD depositor protection fund - which is financed through contributions by Italian banks - and has an option to acquire FITD’s 80% stake at a steep discount by the end of 2021.
However, the sources said CCB’s interest in its rival had waned after Carige’s losses tripled in 2020 compared to those expected under a business plan two years ago, due to pandemic-related loan loss provisions and writedowns of tax assets.
CCB is due to discuss options in relation to Carige on Monday, two of the sources said. One said CCB could set strict conditions on the investment, including a potential further cash injection by FITD to offset the impact of the pandemic.
As a fund financed by lenders, the FITD cannot be a long-term investor in a bank, but sweetening the deal for CCB would put further financial strain on its members, which have already been paying to prop up a number of failing rivals in recent years.
The fund shouldered the bulk of a 700-million euro cash injection that was needed in 2019 to keep Carige afloat, while CCB invested 63 million euros.
A decision on the matter is expected in the coming weeks, two of the sources said. CCB declined to comment. Carige was not immediately available for comment.
The Italian press has reported CCB could offer to pay a symbolic price of 1 euro for Carige and ask for 500 million euros in capital from FITD.
However, such a proposition would likely be rejected, the source said, adding FITD could launch a tender offer to find a buyer for Carige if CCB dropped out.
(Reporting by Andrea Mandalà; editing by Valentina Za and Jan Harvey)