By Valentina Za and Andrea Mandala
MILAN (Reuters) -Monte dei Paschi (MPS) posted better-than-forecast quarterly results on Thursday, while delaying planned job cuts and reducing an expected capital shortfall as rival UniCredit evaluates buying the state-owned bank.
The Italian Treasury, which owns 64% of MPS after a 2017 bailout, last week entered into exclusive talks to sell the Tuscan lender to UniCredit.
The draft accord caps a year of on-and-off talks that were complicated by a change of leadership at UniCredit, where former UBS investment banker Andrea Orcel took the reins in April.
Orcel has said a decision is expected by mid-September after setting strict terms to consider buying “selected parts” of MPS.
Siena-based MPS’ second-quarter earnings confirmed an improving picture of lower loan losses and rebounding revenues for banks across Italy and Europe as the COVID-19 crisis eases.
MPS posted a higher-than-expected 83 million euro ($98 million) net profit for the April-June period, from an 842 million euro loss a year ago. Shares in MPS closed up 4.9%.
Italy’s third-largest bank Banco BPM also swung to a second quarter profit, joining Intesa Sanpaolo and UniCredit, which have both lifted their full-year profit guidance, in exceeding forecasts.
By contrast, Genoa-based Carige on Thursday said it may report a bigger-than-expected full-year loss after a 50 million euro net loss in the first half.
MPS said it still planned to raise 2.5 billion euros in cash next year if it failed to secure a buyer, after a Europe-wide banking health check-up last week showed that its capital would be wiped out by a negative economic shock.
In the meantime, it said a projected capital shortfall had shrunk to less than 500 million euros from an original estimate of up to 1.5 billion euros.
That reflects measures such as buying protection against credit risks, as well as the postponement of proposed staff exits pending the talks with UniCredit.
“Whilst a potential acquisition from UniCredit appears as the likely structural solution … MPS continues working on reducing the potential capital shortfall for 2022,” DBRS Morningstar analyst Arnaud Journois said.
Job cuts are one of the focal points of the talks, with sources saying they could total almost a third of MPS’ 21,000 staff.
Pledging to defend workers and Siena’s local economy, Economy Minister Daniele Franco on Wednesday ruled out delaying the sale, rebuffing calls from politicians to explore alternative options.
Second-quarter revenues at MPS totalled 740.4 million euros, slightly ahead of expectations and better than the year-ago figure, with net fees up 18%, more than offseting the drop in net interest income.
In a sign of improving operating trends, net fees and income from the core lending business were up from the first quarter, while overall revenue declined quarter-on-quarter due to strong trading gains between January and March.
($1 = 0.8446 euros)
(Reporting by Valentina Za; Editing by Agnieszka Flak, Jane Merriman and Alexander Smith)