Italy in EU talks over Popolare Bari rescue plan

Italy in EU talks over Popolare Bari rescue plan

The Italian government is in talks with the European Union over its rescue plan for cooperative bank Popolare di Bari and hopes to wrap them up by early June, Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri said on Friday, Trend with reference to Reuters reports.

Popolare di Bari’s rescue is the latest episode in a string of banking crises to hit Italy since 2015, costing the state and other Italian banks some 23 billion euros ($25.51 billion).

The biggest bank in the south of Italy was put under special administration by Bank of Italy in December.

“Talks with the European Union will intensify once the administrators have set up a restructuring plan for the bank”, Gualtieri told a parliamentary hearing.

A depositor protection fund financed by Italian banks (FITD) is committed to covering up to half of a potential capital increase of 1.4 billion euros for the bank and has also approved an immediate cash injection of 310 million euros.

A detailed assessment of the bank’s assets, in particular its loan book and potential legal risks is needed to be able to put a firm number on the capital injection, the administrator said last week.

Half of Banca Popolare di Bari’s capital increase will be financed by state-owned Banca del Mezzogiorno-Mediocredito Centrale (MCC), tapping up to 900 million euros in funds provided by the government in an emergency decree in December.

In December, Regional Affairs Minister Francesco Boccia said the FITD contribution was necessary to comply with European Union rules on state aid to struggling private firms.

Popolare di Bari has resisted changes brought forward by a 2016 reform aimed at forcing large cooperative banks to turn into regular joint-stock companies to improve governance and management accountability.

But shedding cooperative status, which gives shareholders one vote each regardless of the size of their stake, is a necessary step for the ailing bank to receive the fresh capital injection.

“Transformation of the bank into a joint stock company is necessary and fundamental”, Gualtieri said.

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