Thursday, October 15, 2009

Barclays talks on 135 BMPS Italy branches-sources

LONDON/MILAN, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Britain's Barclays is in talks to buy 135 Italian branches from Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, people familiar with the matter said, in a deal that could be worth 540 million euros ($804.8 million).
Barclays is offering to pay 4 million euros a branch, one of the sources said.
The offer is an increase from its previous 3 million euros each, but BMPS has been firm on 5 million, Italian business daily Il Sole reported.
The bank is due to meet BMPS in Siena with consultant Morgan Stanley in the next few days, possibly on Thursday, Il Sole said.
A deal is not imminent and the UK bank is also in talks to buy branches from other banks to build up its Italian presence, one of the sources said on Thursday.
Barclays is expanding in western Europe, and has targeted northern Italy as a key growth area.
BMPS and Barclays declined to comment.
BMPS, which is the oldest bank in the world, it must sell 150 of its branches by mid-December as a condition from Italy's antitrust authority for its Antonveneta acquisition. So far it has sold only 15 outlets at 5 million euros each.
Sources said in June that Italy's bank Intesa Sanpaolo was in talks to buy 50 of the BMPS branches for a total of between 125 million to 150 million euros.
Barclays is also interested in acquiring Banco Popolare's retail units Popolare Cremona, Popolare Crema and Cassa Pescara, and its merchant bank Efibanca, Il Sole said.
A spokesman for Banco Popolare said the bank has previously said Efibanca is non-strategic but has not commented on the other possible sales. He declined further comment.
A Milan-based bank analyst said BMPS has always wanted 5 million euros per branch. He said other banks might be interested, including Deutsche Bank, while valuation partly depends on the location of the branches in the country.
Barclays currently has 256 distribution outlets in Italy, including about 150 branches, up from 49 in mid-2007. ($1=.6710 Euro).

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