UPDATE 2-UniCredit chairman does not rule out industry rescue of Carige


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(Adds sources on regulator’s meeting, details)

ROME/MILAN, May 15 (Reuters) – Italy’s banks could come to the rescue of Carige to safeguard financial stability after U.S. asset manager BlackRock dropped a planned bid for the struggling regional lender, the chairman of UniCredit said on Wednesday.

The rescue of Carige is in disarray after BlackRock last week pulled out of a plan to provide the bulk of a proposed 720 million euro ($807.2 million) capital injection for the Genoa-based bank.

Unless a deposit protection fund made up of Italian banks can be persuaded to finance Carige’s rescue, Rome risks having to pay for another costly bailout two years after the rescue of Monte dei Paschi di Siena and two banks in the Veneto region in the north east of the country.

“If stability of the financial system is at stake then an industry-led operation, where all the banks contribute in a proportional way, could be appropriate,” Fabrizio Saccomanni, chairman of Italy’s biggest bank UniCredit, told reporters on the sidelines of a banking-industry meeting.

Other banking chiefs appeared to oppose the idea.

Carlo Messina, chief executive of Intesa Sanpaolo, said his bank would not put any more money into the deposit protection fund with the aim of saving Carige.

The European Central Bank is likely to discuss Carige’s situation when its Supervisory board meets on Thursday and Friday, two sources close to the matter told Reuters.

Under the BlackRock plan, the FITD fund had agreed to convert into shares a 320-million-euro bond it bought from Carige in November. This would have given the banks a combined 43 percent stake in Carige.

Fund officials have said it does not want to plug the whole capital shortfall at Carige itself because it does not want to become the controlling shareholder of the bank.

“It’s not reasonable and it’s in nobody’s interest to end up with a bank controlled by the fund,” Messina said.

The fund is financed by Italy’s banks and has the official purpose of guaranteeing bank deposits of up to 100,000 euros.

Over the past two years, Italy’s biggest banks have shored up their capital and sold off billions of euros in troubled loans.

But the country has a long list of smaller banks struggling with bad debts and resistant to consolidation. In the case of Carige, the biggest investor – the Malacalza family of steel entrepreneurs – voted against a capital increase last year, leading the ECB to place the bank under special administration in January.

However, the family said on Wednesday it was ready to support the ailing bank, should a market solution be found for its rescue. (Reporting by Stefano Bernabei and Andrea Mandalà; writing by Silvia Aloisi and Giulio Piovaccari)


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