Ex-Intesa CEO Passera Said to Raise Funds in Finance Return

(Bloomberg) -- Ex-Intesa Sanpaolo SpA Chief Executive Officer Corrado Passera is sounding out investors about setting up a finance vehicle as he prepares a comeback in the industry he left six years ago to enter politics.

The 62-year-old former Italian economy minister plans to raise as much as 400 million euros ($470 million) for a special-purpose acquisition company that will finance the development and restructuring of small- and medium-sized companies and buy their bad loans, two people with knowledge of the matter said. The financing of the vehicle may close by early next year, they said, asking not to be identified because the talks are private.

Italian banks are still sitting on about 324 billion euros of non-performing loans, the highest total in Europe, even after making steep reductions this year. Passera took over Intesa in 2002 and led the acquisition of San Paolo IMA SpA to create Italy’s second-largest bank by assets. He left in 2011 to become a minister in Mario Monti’s government.

“As a minister, Passera introduced very effective rules to combat the dwarfism of Italian SMEs, regulate mini-bonds and radically reform startup business financing,” said Emanuele Canegrati, chief economist at BlackPearlFX, a London-based foreign-exchange broker. “Now, in his new guise, he will certainly be able to implement what he has developed in his previous political experience."

Passera is looking to create something like Banca Ifis SpA, a Venice-based specialty finance provider active in commercial credit, bad loan-acquisition and management, the people said. Andrea Clamer, head of the NPL division at Banca Ifis until earlier this year, is involved in Passera’s plan to start a new company, they said.

Passera’s tenure as minister came to an end with the 2013 elections. Last year, he worked with UBS Group AG to present an alternative plan to turn around ailing lender Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA, the world’s oldest bank, people with knowledge of the matter said at the time. 

Monte Paschi’s board rejected the proposal and chose instead to follow a plan by JPMorgan Chase & Co. to raise 5 billion euros in a capital increase and shed bad loans. That plan collapsed in December, forcing the state to nationalize Monte Paschi. Passera has been sounding out potential investors both in London and New York in recent weeks, according to the people.

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