Written November 11, 2022, at 08.30
Last straight line for Crédit Agricole Assurances and AXA. In the starting blocks to invest in the non-life insurance activities of Banco BPM, the third Italian bank, the two French insurers should be firm before the end of the year.
Banco BPM said last Tuesday that it had “started an in-depth analysis, in strategic, financial and operational terms, of the non-binding offers received from several potential partners”. “The completion of the assessment process is planned for the end of this year,” the bank said in its quarterly results. According to Reuters, the operation can cost 300 million euros for the lucky winner.
Only Crédit Agricole openly shows its appetite for Banco BPM’s insurance business. Its deputy chief executive Jérôme Grivet said he was “very confident” in the outcome of the discussions during an interview with Bloomberg TV on Thursday.
The French bank leaves with a big advantage: last April it became the largest shareholder in Banco BPM by buying 9.8% of the capital. If this participation does not give him specific rights, it shows his confidence in the leadership of the transalpine group. And his desire to strengthen ties. Together, the two groups already own Agos, number three in consumer credit on the peninsula.
After France, Italy is the second “home market” for Crédit Agricole, which bought the local bank Creval last year. However, the ambitions of the tricolor group in Italy do not fall in Fratelli d’Italia, the party of the new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
“Not big enough”
AXA, for its part, is not commenting on its interest in Banco BPM’s insurance, reported by several sources. But “Spain and Italy are the two countries where we do not have sufficient size and want to strengthen our local presence”, declared in mid-October to “Echos” Frédéric de Courtois, deputy director of AXA, during the announcement of the purchase of Crédit Mutuel’s insurance activities in Spain.
In Italy, the group has just contributed 200 million euros to the capital increase of its local partner Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS), which is in great difficulty.
Apart from the two Frenchmen, the other possible suitors of Banco BPM are not known. At a quoted time, Generali would no longer be in the race, according to multiple sources.
The first Italian insurance company, which does not comment, is in a difficult situation. In 2020, he bought the Cattolica cooperative … which is one of Banco BPM’s two historic partners in insurance, with the French Covéa.
But Banco BPM, which has already taken over Covéa’s shares in two insurance joint ventures, could do the same with its life and non-life joint ventures with Cattolica.
The bank can exercise an option to buy Cattolica’s shares in the first half of 2023. This will allow it to fully control its property and casualty insurance business. It is precisely them that she wants to open up to a new partner.