HSBC to sell 57% stake in Italian bank for pounds 20m

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HONGKONG & Shanghai Banking Corporation has agreed to sell its 56.6 per cent stake in the Italian merchant bank Euromobiliare, founded by Carlo de Benedetti in 1973, to Credito Emiliano for pounds 20m.

The stake was acquired by Midland Bank in 1988, and an HSBC spokesman said it decided to sell because Euromobiliare's customer base was too domestic for HSBC's international ambitions.

The spokesman said that it had restructured Euromobiliare over 18 months into four divisions: treasury and capital markets; corporate finance; equity broking, and asset management.

'However, it became clear during this restructuring that the bank's customer base was almost all in the Italian domestic market. We are seeking to expand our international operations so we decided to sell.'

He said HSBC is selling the stake at a premium to net asset value, as HSBC wrote off the goodwill relating to Euromobiliare when the Hong Kong bank bought Midland.

'We consider it to be a fair price,' he said.

Euromobiliare is headed by a Samuel Montagu director, Emmanuel Zuridis, who will return to Samuel Montagu once the deal has received regulatory approval.

The buyer, Credito Emiliano, is a private bank controlled by Achille Maramotti, who also controls the Reggio Emilia-based Max Mara clothing group.

Euromobiliare had many leading Italian businessmen as shareholders before Midland bought its stake.

Chris Ellerton, an analyst with SG Warburg, said: 'I'm somewhat surprised HSBC sold it. HSBC by nature do not sell banking businesses, as opposed to non-banking ones. Either they've decided it was too small and going nowhere, or they are going to do something else in Italy.'

(Photograph omitted)