UniCredit Said to Have Started Sale of Austrian Card Unit

(Bloomberg) -- UniCredit SpA has started reaching out to potential suitors for its Austrian credit-card business, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

HSBC Holdings Plc, which is working with the firm on the sale of Vienna-based Card Complete Service Bank AG, is sending information about the business to possible buyers, the people said, asking not to be identified as the process is confidential. The lender could attract bids from payment companies such as Copenhagen-based Nets A/S, one of the people said.

Under Chief Executive Officer Jean Pierre Mustier, UniCredit has raised 13 billion euros of funds from investors, slashed costs and cleaned up UniCredit’s balance sheet as he pursues a target of 4.7 billion euros of annual net income in 2019. The bank is selling billions of euros of bad loans as part of the clean-up.

UniCredit Bank Austria AG owns 50.1 percent of Card Complete, according to the Austrian company register. Raiffeisen Bank International AG owns 25 percent of the business and AVZ GmbH, the holding company of a Vienna-based trust that’s historically affiliated with Bank Austria, owns 24.9 percent. It’s unclear if UniCredit Bank Austria will be the only seller.

‘European Ambition’

Representatives for Bank Austria, Raiffeisen and HSBC declined to comment. AVZ didn’t immediately return calls seeking a comment.

Card Complete’s enterprise value was estimated to be around 400 million euros ($455 million) in July, when UniCredit started to weigh a sale, people familiar with the matter said at that time.

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Possible suitor Nets is a private equity-backed payment company that merged with Germany’s Concardis and bought Poland’s Dotpay earlier this year and would be a very likely bidder for the Austrian company as well, one of the people said. Card Complete issues credit cards, offers payment-processing machines, acquires merchants to accept cards and manages the payments.

Nets has “a clear European ambition,” spokesman Soren Winge said in an emailed statement, declining to comment on the company’s interest in specific targets.

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