FROM the mists of Italian banking, new shapes are emerging. One is at last becoming flesh: on October 15th the shareholders of two lenders, Banco Popolare and Banca Popolare di Milano, approved a merger that has been months in the making. The substance of another—Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest bank as well as Italy’s most troubled—is still shrouded, but it is likely to become clearer at a meeting of Monte dei Paschi’s board on October 24th.
The merged bank, to be called Banco BPM, will surpass Monte dei Paschi to become Italy’s third-largest lender. Its creation is a small triumph for Matteo Renzi, the centre-left prime minister. Last year Mr Renzi introduced a reform obliging Italy’s ten biggest popolari, or co-operative banks, to become joint-stock companies by the end of 2016. The hope was that this would spur takeovers, yielding fewer, stronger, more efficient banks.
The Banco BPM deal, which promises annual savings of €290m ($318m), or 10% of the combined cost base, is Mr Renzi’s first result. Two awkward obstacles stood in its…Continue reading