The Italian fund management industry is in the grip of continued turmoil, but a change in the tax law has brightened prospects.
By the end of December, Italian managers controlled 77.5% (€452bn) of the funds industry assets, while foreign managers claimed the rest, or 22.5% (€101bn). However, a number of big global players, including BlackRock and Swiss & Global, have yet to communicate their data to Assogestioni. Analysts estimate that foreign fund managers could be managing as much as €120bn, almost a third of Italian funds. Ten years ago, foreign groups handled €13bn.
The banking groups continue to dominate the industry. Intesa Sanpaolo is the biggest, with assets of €114.5bn, accumulated through Eurizon Capital and Banca Fideuram. Next in line, with €66bn, is Pioneer Investments, a subsidiary of the UniCredit group, which is currently examining options for its sale.
Despite the uptick in asset flows, the Italian funds industry is under pressure to consolidate, in common with the rest of Europe. Last May, UniCredit appointed Bank of America Merrill Lynch to conduct a strategic review of the future of Pioneer Asset Management, including a complete or partial sale. UniCredit has stressed that obtaining the right price is key to the sale. If the right price is not forthcoming, the option of shelving the sale is still on the cards. UniCredit has still not found a buyer, but reports suggest its sale could be decided soon, according to Federico Ghizzoni, chief executive of UniCredit.
Ghizzoni said he had received a number of offers for Pioneer, but that there was no favourite. He was unable to confirm or deny market speculation that Amundi, the joint venture between Société Générale and Crédit Agricole, was the front-runner. Other bidders mentioned in the press were Natixis, BNP Paribas, US financial services group Ameriprise and UK buyout vehicle Resolution.
The seriousness of Amundi’s bid can be gauged by the strength of the advisory team it has appointed to manage the process. These are Rothschild and Morgan Stanley, though some reports say Mediobanca has been appointed as well.