EBRD in line for another round of reorganisation: Bank may abolish regional divisions

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THE EUROPEAN Bank for Reconstruction and Development may face another internal reorganisation following the announcement last week that Mario Sarcinelli, a senior bank official, is to leave in April.

Mr Sarcinelli, a founding director of the bank, was telephoned personally by Carlo Ciampi, the Italian Prime Minister, on Thursday morning and offered the job of heading one of Italy's largest banking groups, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL), as it prepares for privatisation.

The former director-general of the Italian Treasury ranks third in the EBRD hierarchy as vice-president, banking operations, south.

When Jacques de Larosiere took over as president of the Bank last September, he reorganised the institution by merging the merchant and development banking arms and splitting the bank along regional lines, with two divisions responsible for countries in the 'north' and the 'south'.

It is understood that Mr Sarcinelli's departure might prompt Mr de Larosiere to drop the regional distinctions if he decides not to replace the Italian official with another high-profile appointment.

Alternatively, the two regional groups could function separately but report to a single senior vice- president, Ron Freeman, the US banker who is currently the bank's second most senior official.

The regional groupings were established largely to placate Mr Freeman, who formerly headed merchant banking, and Mr Sarcinelli, who led development banking, when the two bank functions were merged by the new president. As a result, the regional split is seen as having little real significance for the institution.

Bank officials believe Mr de Larosiere was right to merge these two groups because the bank is placing increasing emphasis on working with the emerging private sector in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, some public sector clients of the Bank have entered the private sector and the distinction between development and merchant banking is expected to become less important in the next few years.

Mr Sarcinelli, who was aware the Italian government was considering him for a high-level post, was said by some to have become depressed after the reorganisation that followed the departure of Jacques Attali, the former president whose free-spending ways earned the EBRD the epithet 'the glistening bank'. Although well-respected he was not seen as particularly dynamic.

The Italian official is expecting to leave on 15 April with a quarter of his term to go, just ahead of the bank's annual meeting in St Petersburg. The state-owned BNL has been riven with scandal and the latest chairman, Giampiero Cantoni, was recently forced out by a corruption inquiry.