Banco BPM focused on growth as stand-alone lender, says CEO

PARMA, Italy, Feb 12 (Reuters) – Banco BPM (BAMI.MI) is focused on growth opportunities as a stand-alone lender, the head of Italy’s third-largest bank said on Saturday, a day after fresh speculation that its Biggest rival UniCredit (CRDI.MI) may launch a takeover bid, sending shares up 10%.

With its roots in the wealthy region of Lombardy, Banco BPM, which has a market capitalization of around 5.4 billion euros ($6.13 billion), is seen as the ideal geographic fit for UniCredit, the second-largest major bank of Italy.

“We still have a very important path to take on the stock market, we have a very important autonomous growth path ahead of us that is not yet fully exploited,” Banco BPM chief executive Giuseppe Castagna said on the sidelines of the meeting. ASSIOM FOREX conference in Parma. “Banco BPM is worth more.”

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Asked about potential interest from UniCredit, Castagna said the bank had not received any communication from its larger counterpart in this regard.

Responding to rumors of a possible imminent bid, UniCredit said on Friday it was continuing to assess all strategic options and would update the market in due course, adding that no extraordinary board meeting had been called.

Earlier this week, shares of Banco BPM hit their highest level in four years after the lender posted better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings as loan loss provisions more than halved and charges fell. increased income.

Castagna said at the time that the lender saw no merger opportunity at the moment and was focusing on the business plan it presented last year.

“We have just come out of a restructuring process, we have presented an aggressive plan… but we think the market is only beginning to recognize what is the path that will take us much further,” Castagna added on Saturday.

Shares of Banco BPM have gained about 35% year-to-date and more than 60% in the past 12 months as it is seen as a possible merger and acquisition target.

($1 = 0.8811 euros)

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Reporting by Francesca Landini, writing by Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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