Poste Italiane Courts UniCredit's $3.2 Billion Pioneer Asset Manager

Restructuring Italian lender UniCredit continues to draw bidders for its Pioneer Global Asset Management unit despite potential market upheaval from Italy's looming constitutional referendum.

The latest suitor to emerge is Poste Italiane, the postal service company, which announced on Thursday that it will make a bid with asset manager Anima Holding and state-backed lender Cassa dei depositi e prestiti.

Poste Italiane already has its own asset manager, BancoPosta Fondi, and a 10.3% stake in Anima. But it said Thursday it is turning the manager over to Anima in return for a bigger equity stake of up to 24.9%.

The BancoPosta and Anima duo will have assets of around €147 billion ($159.9 billion), while Pioneer has close to €249 billion of assets under management.

UniCredit confirmed Friday it has received offers for Pioneer but did not provide details.

A final agreement is seen as unlikely before an Italian referendum on constitutional changes on Dec. 4, which is being seen as a vote on the economic reforms of the government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Pioneer's global and product diversification gives it a good chance of weathering fallout from any subsequent upheaval. Around half of its assets are in bonds, and about a fifth are in equity markets. It also has a substantial presence in alternative assets.

Global bond fund manager Pimco, which is owned by Allianz SE, reported on Friday its first net inflow into its funds for three years during the third quarter. However, the recent election of Donald Trump as America's 45th president has prompted a bond selloff that has hit southern European debt particularly hard.

Tipped as likely to go for around €3 billion ($3.2 billion), Pioneer has been on the block ever since a long-running effort to merge it with the asset management division of Banco Santander (SAN) failed in July. 

In October, France's Amundi SA said it had made an offer. The French investment manager is seeking to double its position in real and alternative assets, where it has €34 billion under management.

But Amundi said last month that it has strict criteria when it comes to valuations and will not pay the €4 billion price tag that it was rumored to be considering in early press reports.

Other suitors, according to a Reuters report on Friday, are Macquarie Group and Ameriprise Financial. (AMP)

The Pioneer auction follows several years of deals in the fund-management industry as companies struggle to achieve organic growth and regulation drives up costs. Janus Capital Group (JNS) , home to Bill Gross, and Henderson Global Investors announced in October that they would merge.

UniCredit has been shedding assets in order to bolster its balance sheet and regulatory capital buffers throughout the year. In addition to raising capital, the bank has been seeking to reduce the scale of its footprint in order to shed the "global systemically important financial institution" moniker assigned to it by regulators.

The bank reported a stronger-than-expected capital buffer in its third-quarter update on Thursday. Its common equity tier one ratio, a regulatory benchmark that measures the strength of financial institutions, came in at 10.8% against forecasts for 10.7%.

The company also delivered a modest beat against expectations for net profit, which came in at €447 million.

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