Cabot, Ifis Are Said in Talks to Buy Italy Debt Collector FBS

(Bloomberg) -- Banca Ifis SpA and Cabot Credit Management Plc are among four firms in talks to buy FBS, an Italian manager of more than 8 billion euros ($9.9 billion) of non-performing loans, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The sale comes as NPL investors are snapping up Italian debt collectors to access Europe’s largest trove of troubled loans. An improving Italian economy and measures to simplify bankruptcy proceedings are increasing the prospects of recovery.

Lazard, which is advising FBS on the disposal, is set to receive binding offers by April 23, and a winner will be chosen as soon as next week the people said, asking to not be identified because the matter is private. EOS Group and Tecnoinvestimenti SpA are the other possible buyers, they said.

The Strocchi family, the majority owner of FBS, may retain 10 percent to 25 percent of the firm after the sale, one of the people said.

A purchase may value the firm between 70 million euros and 100 million euros, one of the people said. Representatives of Lazard, Ifis, EOS, Cabot, FBS and Tecnoinvestimenti declined to comment.

Cabot, backed by Encore Capital Group Inc. and J.C. Flowers & Co., is the U.K.’s largest credit-managing service and Europe’s biggest debt purchaser. EOS, with more than 55 operating companies in 26 countries, provides customized financial services with a specialty in fiduciary collection and debt purchases. Italy’s Banca Ifis is seeking to expand its purchase and management of NPLs through acquisitions.

Deals on servicing platforms are increasing, with both banks and small independent firms disposing of businesses. Intesa Sanpaolo SpA followed UniCredit SpA and Banca Monte dei Paschi SpA in agreeing to sell its servicing platform earlier this week to increase recovery rates by transferring the management to Intrum Justitia AB, a specialized debt collector.

Italy’s banks are still weighed down by more than 270 billion euros of NPLs.

FSB, which employs 126 people, generated revenue of about 17.9 million euros in 2016, the latest data available showed. The portfolio under management includes 1 billion euros of its own funds, while rest are managed on behalf of third parties.

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