Italy's Intesa nears decision on UBI bid launch after insurance OK

MILAN (Reuters) – Italy’s insurance authority has cleared Intesa Sanpaolo’s (ISP.MI) proposed bid for rival UBI Banca (UBI.MI), paving the way for market watchdog Consob to clear the prospectus for the deal as a crucial antitrust meeting nears.

Intesa said in a statement on Wednesday, insurance authority IVASS had given it the go-ahead to gain control of UBI’s small in-house insurer BAP and acquire significant holdings in Aviva Vita and Lombarda Vita, two joint-ventures UBI has in place with Britain’s Aviva (AV.L) and Cattolica Assicurazioni (CASS.MI).

Consob now has five days to clear the publication of the prospectus for the multi-billion euro all-paper offer Intesa unveiled in February to create the euro zone’s seventh-biggest banking group.

Italy’s antitrust authority, which still has to rule on the deal, has scheduled a final hearing on the case for Thursday after expressing concerns the tie-up would strengthen Intesa’s dominance in several areas.

Intesa on Monday submitted stepped-up competition remedies, increasing the number of branches and assets it plans to sell to rival BPER Banca (EMII.MI) if the bid goes through in the hope of winning clearance.

An antitrust verdict is not expected until late July, complicating matters for Intesa which had initially planned to launch its bid at the end of June before the summer holiday period, by which time it had expected to have cleared all regulatory hurdles.

Publication of the prospectus is normally followed by the launch of the offer, but Intesa is still weighing options and indications it will receive at Thursday’s hearing will be important for any decision, a person familiar with the process said.

The European Central Bank, the Bank of Italy and Luxembourg’s financial services authority all gave the deal a green light earlier this month.

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