Anima CEO Sees Opportunity From Possible UniCredit M&A Move

Alessandro Melzi d’Eril, chief executive officer of Italian asset manager Anima Holding SpA, said a potential takeover by UniCredit SpA of rival lenders Banco BPM SpA and Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA -- two of his main clients -- would offer the company an opportunity to expand its business.

“A three-way merger among two of our main partners and Italy’s second-biggest bank would be the best scenario for Anima, giving us enormous opportunities,” Melzi d’Eril said in an interview at his headquarters in Milan on Wednesday.

“Among all possible M&A options, this combination would allow Anima to consolidate and stabilize its distribution network through Banco BPM and Paschi,” the executive said. A deal would also offer “the additional upside of access to UniCredit’s assets.”

Though UniCredit already has a distribution agreement with rival asset manager Amundi SA, Melzi d’Eril said he’s confident that if the lender takes over Paschi or Banco BPM -- or preferably both -- there could be space for new partnership deals. Anima has about 400 million euros ($483 million) of cash it could employ to broaden its current partnerships and renegotiate contracts, he said.

“Should UniCredit move on Banco and Paschi, Anima would have at least the possible chance to renegotiate its agreements at a broader level, bearing in mind that UniCredit would inherit the stake Banco currently owns in Anima,” Bestinver analyst Fabrizio Bernardi wrote in a note commenting on the interview.

Consolidation Wave

Melzi d’Eril also said he sees scope for the current wave of consolidation among Italian banks to accelerate with additional deals by the end of the year.

Intesa Sanpaolo SpA’s takeover of smaller rival UBI Banca kicked off the M&A season last year, while recent changes at the helm of UniCredit and BPER Banca SpA have led investors to speculate on additional deals.

A possible merger between Banco BPM and BPER could have a positive impact on Anima, Melzi d’Eril said, as it could pave the way for his company to start talks on a subsequent takeover of BPER’s Arca asset management unit.

Anima, which has about 194 billion euros of assets under management, distributes products through partnership agreements, and Banco BPM, Monte Paschi and Poste Italiane SpA are the company’s three biggest partners. Banco BPM and Poste are also two of the company’s largest shareholders.

Melzi d’Eril said he’s open to acquisitions in asset management, but said deals not linked to banking consolidation look unlikely.

“Arca, Euromobiliare and BCC Risparmio & Previdenza would be suitable targets,” the executive said, “but they are not for sale.”

Other Interview Highlights

  • Among all M&A options, “I prefer the ones where Banco BPM is involved,” the executive said, “because we have strong, long-term agreements with the lender”
  • Anima isn’t in talks with any of its major partners on reviewing current accords
  • Melzi d’Eril said he’s ready to start talks with Credit Agricole SA about its partnership agreement with Credito Valtellinese SpA which expires in 2027. “I hope that Agricole can find room for a partnership with us, even if it owns Amundi,” he said
  • Melzi D’Eril said that if there are no accords or M&A that use up cash in the next 12 months the firm may consider returning money to investors through buybacks
  • The executive said he sees net inflow, profit in 2021 higher than last year

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