Italy's largest lender looks to sell Irish business

Uncertain times for the country's banking system see Unicredit attempting to steady the ship...

Unicredit, one of Italy’s largest and most important banks, has announced that it has entered into exclusive talks with the French firm Amundi to sell its Irish-headquartered, asset management subsidiary, Pioneer Global Asset Management.

Pioneer employs close to 500 people in Dublin’s IFSC. It has more than €200bn in assets under management and recorded operating profits of more than €20m last year.

The anticipated €3.5bn sale proceeds will be used to strengthen Unicredit’s balance sheet and comes at a time when Italy's banking system - described by financial analyst Paul Sommerville on Breakfast Business as a "cesspit" on Monday - finds itself in dire straits. Unicredit shares have lost 63% of their value in the last year alone. 

The Genoa-based Banca Carige SpA is under pressure from the ECB to strengthen its balance sheet, while Monte dei Paschi, the world's oldest bank, is under the most potentially lethal strain. It is attempting to raise €5bn in capitalisation through a stock sale that now looks unlikely to succeed ahead post-referendum, with rumours of nationalisation not going away.