Banco BPM CEO says M&A key goal, weighing potential deals

MILANO, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Banco BPM is studying what the best fit would be for Italy’s third-largest bank in a possible merger, its chief executive said on Tuesday, adding a tie-up remained a key objective.

Despite a reduction in the number of lenders in recent years, Italy’s banking industry continues to be fragmented and last year’s unsolicited takeover by Intesa Sanpaolo of rival UBI has increased competitive pressure.

Consolidation is expected to accelerate further this year, helped by tax incentives for mergers taking place in 2021.

Speaking to analysts after presenting full-year results Banco BPM CEO Giuseppe Castagna reiterated the lender was “open” to seeking a possible merger accord.

“It’s one of the main targets we would like to reach,” Castagna said, adding that the bank was doing “its homework” to better understand what the best options for a merger would be.

People with knowledge of the matter told Reuters in December Banco BPM was weighing a possible merger deal with rival BPER Banca which could take shape in the first half of 2021. (Reporting by Andrea Mandalà; editing by Valentina Za)