UniCredit is preparing a rival multibillion-euro bid to take control of Commerzbank amid signs efforts to merge the lender with its German rival Deutsche Bank are facing mounting difficulties, according to Financial Times.
The Milan-based lender is unlikely to gatecrash the merger negotiations between Commerzbank and Deutsche but is ready to make a move should the discussions fall apart, the people said.
“The way for us might be open,” said one person close to UniCredit.
UniCredit’s plan involves amassing a sizeable stake in Commerzbank, which has a stock market value of €9bn, and merging it with HypoVereinsbank, the German lender it already owns, one of the people said.
The combined entity would be based in Germany while UniCredit would maintain its headquarters and listing in Milan, the person said; Commerzbank would retain a free float of shares listed on the Frankfurt stock exchange.
“The combination would make sense for Germany,” said one person advising UniCredit. “It could be presented as a national champion.”
However, “Combining Deutsche and Commerzbank was never going to be smooth,” said one person familiar with the two groups. “The cultures are completely opposite.”
Olaf Scholz, the German finance minister, is also starting to become less convinced about the merits of a Deutsche-Commerzbank tie-up, according to one person briefed on the talks.
Mr Scholz had championed the deal but now fears the political fallout from the tens of thousands of job cuts that executives say they would have to make if the combination is to be a commercial success.
If the talks between Commerzbank and Deutsche do fall apart, UniCredit is unlikely to make a move immediately, instead preferring to give officials in Berlin time to reassess their options.
“The German government will want a little bit of a cooling-off period,” one of the people said.
UniCredit also thinks it would have to fend off rival bids from other European lenders interested in Commerzbank, they added, citing ING and BNP Paribas as potential suitors.
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