Italy's Banco BPM, investor in BPER in talks on possible merger, La Stampa says

MILAN, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Italy’s Banco BPM and the biggest investor in BPER Banca have begun working on a potential merger of the two banks that could be launched in the second half of 2021, La Stampa daily reported, citing unnamed sources.

Banco BPM Chief Executive Giuseppe Castagna and Carlo Cimbri, the head of BPER Banca’s top shareholder Unipol , are in talks on the governance such merged entity could have, the paper said.

The potential tie-up was spearheaded by Banco BPM Chairman Massimo Tononi and could “count on the support of some important shareholders”, the paper reported.

The deal could only kick off after BPER completed the integration of branches it bought from UBI Banca last year, it added.

Sources told Reuters in December the two banks were considering a merger that would take shape in the first half of 2021.

Italian bank shares have been rising on the prospect of consolidation spurred by tax incentives the government has introduced for mergers taking place this year.

BPER, Italy’s fifth-largest lender, has long been seen as the best partner for Banco BPM in a deal that would create Italy’s second-largest bank by market share.

Banco BPM, BPER Banca and Unipol were not immediately available to comment. (Reporting by Agnieszka Flak and Gianluca Semeraro; Editing by Edmund Blair)