* Intesa says standards have been improved, complaints have decreased (Adding Intesa’s statement)
ROME, November 26 (Reuters) – Italy’s antitrust authorities said on Thursday it had opened an investigation into the businesses of the RBM Salute Intesa Sanpaolo and Previmedical for alleged unfair commercial practices in health insurance services.
Regulators said in a statement that they had received more than 1,000 complaints about possible “aggressive commercial practices” by the two groups that had led to customers giving up the service and reimbursement they were entitled to.
Clients say they face requests to provide redundant documentation, delays in obtaining authorization for required care and difficulties in contacting call centers. Some failed to get reimbursed for their health services for no good reason, regulators said.
The regulator said it had carried out inspections at the headquarters of the two companies on Wednesday with the help of the Italian financial police.
Intesa Sanpaolo said the complaint was related to the period before the acquisition of RBM Salute in May 2020.
“Since that date, concrete steps have been taken to align the quality of service provided to customers with the high standards held by the entire Intesa Sanpaolo group,” said Italy’s largest bank.
Intesa said complaints had halved in the first nine months of this year compared to the same period in 2018, with only 0.07% of customers being insured.
Previmedical did not reply to a Reuters email seeking comment. (Reporting by Francesca Piscioneri, additional reporting by Maria Pia Quaglia and Valentina Za in Milan; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)
SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Highline do Brasil, a portfolio company of US private equity firm Digital Colony, has reached an agreement to acquire telecommunications infrastructure company Phoenix Tower do Brasil, it said on Tuesday, adding 2,500 new sites to its portfolio.
Phoenix is supported by the Blackstone Tactical Opportunities fund. After the acquisition, Highline will have 3,200 sites in Brazil.
The agreement value was not disclosed in the joint statement.
Highline is also interested in acquiring assets owned by Brazilian telecommunications company Oi SA, such as its tower and fiber units. nL1N2F70OH
Reporting by Carolina Mandl; Edited by Richard Chang
PARIS / MILAN (Reuters) – France’s Credit Agricole offered to buy Italian third-tier lender Creval for 737 million euros ($ 875 million) on Monday as a wave of consolidation swept across Italy’s banking sector.
France’s No.2 bank has considered expanding in Italy, the second largest market, and both Creval and its bigger rival Banco BPM have been seen as possible targets.
Italy’s Credit Agricole will pay 10.5 euros per Creval share, a 21.4% premium on Friday’s closing price. Creval shares soared 23.7% slightly over the bid price. Credit Agricole closed up 3.9%. Banco BPM fell 3.7%.
The buyout offer is expected to be launched in April and is subject to a minimum acceptance threshold of two-thirds by Creval shareholders.
Intesa Sanpaolo’s surprise takeover of UBI earlier this year prompted rivals in Italy to explore alternative deals.
Italy’s Credit Agricole has held preliminary talks with Banco BPM, Italy’s No. 3 bank and longtime commercial partner, but they have stalled, sources said.
Banco BPM on Friday welcomed the merger offer by top investors at BPER Banca.
Credit Agricole Italy has also doubled over the past few months a 5% stake in Creval was acquired in 2018 as part of an insurance deal.
“We are in an ambiguous situation. We have this long-term bancassurance agreement but it is difficult to pursue synergies, ”said Credit Agricole Italia CEO Giampiero Maioli at a news conference.
The merger will save 150 million euros a year before taxes, leading to a return on equity above 10% by 2023 for the combined entity.
Plans for a bid to buy have emerged over the past month and have been discussed with the European Central Bank and Italian authorities, including the very well-connected Ministry of Finance, Maioli said.
The deal may benefit from a tax break for a merger that Italy has designed to facilitate the re-privatization of bailed Monte dei Paschi, a scheme that Mediobanca Securities analysts see as a “game changer for consolidation”.
“We always take part in the consolidation of Italian banks,” said Maioli. “This new investment … is testament to the level of confidence we have in the country.”
Mergers are also attractive because of the bank’s discounted valuations, which translate into paper profits for buyers.
The offer values Creval 0.4 times its tangible assets, a level analysts say is “good news” for Italian banks while still leaving a 1 billion euro revenue boost that Italy’s Credit Agricole will use to cover cleanup and restructuring costs.
The unit plans to launch a share issue to rebuild its capital buffer, which is fully guaranteed by Credit Agricole.
Maioli said there were no other merger discussions in Italy.
The group will have a 5% share of the market nationwide, with more than two-thirds of branches concentrated in Italy’s rich north.
The offer was friendly and a conversation with Creval’s top managers on Sunday to inform them of the offer was “very welcoming,” Maioli said.
Intesa also considered her offer friendly but opposition from UBI and its shareholders forced her to raise prices.
The 737 million euro offer includes spending on an agreed purchase of a 5.4% stake in Creval from the London-based Algebris fund, as well as the acquisition of a 9.8% interest in the Group’s Credit Agricole Assurance unit.
Credit Agricole entered Italian retail banking in 2007 by buying northern banks Cariparma and Friuladria, where it added three ailing small banks a decade later. Meanwhile, its asset manager Amundi has acquired rival Pioneer from UniCredit for 3.6 billion euros.
“We maintain a long-term view and are not afraid if Italy’s debt risk premium goes up and down,” Maioli said.
Additional reporting by Pamela Barbaglia in London; Edited by Kirsten Donovan, Susan Fenton, and Barbara Lewis
ZURICH (Reuters) – Swiss voters on Sunday decided whether to ban the funding of arms makers, the latest anti-military referendum on a neutral country that has not fought an external war in 200 years.
Swiss banks have made loans and hold stakes worth nearly $ 11 billion in companies such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, according to a study by independent researcher Profundo.
The Swiss National Bank (SNB), UBS and Credit Suisse had the greatest exposure, said the study.
“A large amount of money is coming from Switzerland into an industry that is benefiting from death and destruction,” said Julia Kueng, vice president of the Young Greens.
“How can a country that claims to profit be neutral from war materials?”
Activists have collected 120,000 signatures, sparking a referendum.
The SNB opposes the initiative, which it says will create legal uncertainty and undermine the independence of the central bank. UBS also rejected it, saying it does not directly or indirectly fund weapons that are already banned in Switzerland.
Credit Suisse refers Reuters to the Swiss Bankers Association. The association said the initiative would weaken Switzerland as a business location and unnecessarily restrict SNBs, pension funds, banks and insurance companies.
‘NAIVE AND IRRESPONSIBLE’
The Initiative Against the War Trade wants to prohibit the SNB and pension funds from owning stakes in companies that generate more than 5% of sales from weapons and components. That would prohibit banks from lending to defense companies.
The vote is the latest to put into question Switzerland’s ties to the military. In 1989 voters refused to remove the troops, while six years ago they refused to buy Gripen fighter jets.
The Group for Switzerland without an Army (GSoA) argues that gun-fuel wars are proliferating, and Switzerland can contribute to demilitarization through its enormous wealth management industry.
“These weapons must be financed,” said GSoA secretary Nadia Kuhn. “Swiss banks manage about a quarter of global assets that are managed across borders. This gave Switzerland the opportunity to make a difference. “
Apart from investing in foreign companies, Switzerland also produces weapons, and some companies will get loans from banks. Switzerland exported weapons worth 727.9 million Swiss francs to 71 countries in 2019, up from 510 million francs in 2018.
Switzerland bans the production and sale of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and landmines and cluster munitions.
Industry group Swissmem estimates that some 3,000 companies employing 50,000 people could be affected by initiatives it opposes. The Swiss government is also against it.
This month’s poll shows 50% of respondents agree and 45% disagree.
Maja Riniker, a member of parliament from the conservative FDP party, called the referendum “naive and irresponsible.
“Of course, we all want to have a truly peaceful world. But this initiative will not achieve that – no other country has. On the contrary this will cause the company to take its production from Switzerland. “
Among the companies affected is Casram, which gets about 15% of its sales from the defense industry, selling parts to Saab for use in the Gripen airframe.
“You can’t survive in Switzerland just making simple products, you need to create more complex articles,” said Chief Executive Franco Puffi. “If we lose this market, it’s like cutting off our legs.”
Reporting by John Revill; Edited by Mike Collett-White
PARIS / MILAN (Reuters) – France’s second-largest bank listed Credit Agricole on Monday offered to buy Italian bank Credito Valtellinese (Creval) for 737 million euros ($ 875 million) as it pursues plans to increase its footprint in prosperous northern Italy.
The bank said the acquisition would double its market share in Italy’s richest region of Lombardy from 3% to more than 6%.
Its Italian subsidiary, Credit Agricole Italia, is offering € 10.50 ($ 12.47) per share to acquire Creval, Credit Agricole added. The offer amounts to an investment of 737 million euros ($ 875 million).
Under the takeover plan, its insurance unit Credit Agricole Assurance will sell its 9.8% stake in Creval to Italian Credit Agricole, the French lender said.
London-based investment firm Algebris has also committed to sell its 5.4% stake in Creval to Italian Credit Agricole.
“The offer will be subject to Italy’s Credit Agricole which accounts for at least 66.7% of Credito Valtellinese’s voting share capital,” the lender said.
Credit Agricole is also holding merger discussions with Banco BPM, Italy’s third-largest bank, but sources said the talks have stalled.
Credit Agricole’s Italian retail banking expansion began in 2007 when it bought its main assets in the country, Cariparma, Friuladria, as well as several branches of Banca Intesa.
The bank increased its exposure to Italy after Amundi bought asset manager Unicredit Pioneer in 2017.
(This story corrects a typo in paragraph 8)
Reporting by Matthieu Protard and Sudip Kar-Gupta in Paris and Andrea Mandala in Milan; Edited by Himani Sarkar, Tom Hogue, Kirsten Donovan