Italy’s former industry minister and one of the country’s move famous businessman, Corrado Passera, is spearheading a last minute plan to try and rescue the world’s oldest bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, less than 24 hours before the results of a eurozone-wide bank stress test are released.
Passera’s audacious rescue attempt comes despite the fact that just over a week ago, Passera was, according to Reuters, sentenced “to a year and 11 months in jail on charges of complicity in manslaughter” during a trial about the asbestos-related deaths of numerous workers at electronics group Olivetti between the 1960s and 1990s. Passera was the co-CEO of the company for roughly four years in the early to mid-1990s.
The bank stress test results, due this evening, are expected to show that Monte dei Paschi — which has been in operation since the 15th century — is one of the weakest banks in Europe. The bank has been scrambling to put together a rescue package using private sector funding before the results come out.
That rescue package would include the sale of €10 billion worth of non-performing loans (NPLs), which sit at the heart of the Italian banking crisis (which Credit Suisse thinks is a potential catalyst for the future collapse of the eurozone), along with a €5 billion capital raise.
The bank is scrambling to get the deal done before the stress test results drop on Friday evening at around 10:00 p.m. CET (9:00 p.m. BST; 4:00 p.m. ET). It is thought that some involved in the deal are sceptical about it given that Monte dei Paschi has raised, and gone through, €8 billion in the last two years. The rescue offer is being led by JP Morgan and Italian lender Mediobanca
Passera is said to be working with Swiss bank UBS, but according to the Financial Times, the involvement of Passera, as well as UBS’ investment banking boss Andrea Orcel, has “raised eyebrows” in the Italian financial sector because of the history of both men.
Aside from Passera’s recent conviction, Andrea Orcel’s involvement in the proposed deal is causing some consternation because of Orcel’s involvement in a previous deal with Monte dei Paschi that turned sour.
Orcel was instrumental in the 2007 takeover of Dutch bank ABN Amro, a deal that eventually led Monte dei Paschi to buy fellow Italian lender Antonveneta, which had previously been a subsidiary of ABN. Many in the Italian banking sector cite MPS buying Antonveneta as one of the reasons it is in such trouble right now.
On Thursday night, Monte dei Paschi acknowledged that it had “received two letters, one from Mr Passera and one from UBS, containing proposals concerning the bank.”
A statement from the bank said that it had “promptly arranged the analysis of the content of these letters, and has already requested clarifications, additional data and information which it deems necessary to fully assess the terms and conditions of the proposals. Upon completion of this activity, the bank will promptly inform the market.”
Shares in Monte dei Paschi, which have lost 99% of their value in the last decade, and more than 84% so far in 2016 have rallied on the news, and on Friday are enjoying their best day since May. Here’s the chart as of 9:30 a.m. BST (4:30 a.m. ET):