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Italy’s MPS vows to keep delivering after sharp profit jump

Italy’s MPS vows to keep delivering after sharp profit jump

By Valentina Za

MILAN (Reuters) -Italy’s Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS) pledged on Tuesday to maintain the state-owned bank’s performance after reporting a much bigger than expected first quarter net profit.

Under CEO Luigi Lovaglio, MPS completed a make-or-break 2.5 billion euro ($2.8 billion) capital raising in November, which it used in part to fund thousands of staff exits.

Net profit for January-March was 236 million euros ($260 million), outstripping a 150 million euro market consensus and spiking from only 10 million euros last year.

“The net profit of the quarter confirms the new capability of the bank to generate sustainable returns,” said Lovaglio, who has just been given another three-year mandate.

“Based on the current evidence, we reasonably expect to replicate this performance in the next quarters.”

Operating costs at MPS fell 14% year-on-year to 53% of income, down from 60% at the end of December and already ahead of a 2026 target of 57%.

Income from its lending business rose 57% from a year before, outpacing expectations as MPS joined other banks in reaping the benefits of higher interest rates. Net fees, however, also rose 7% from the previous quarter due to the sale of investment products.

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European Union state aid rules require Italy to cut the 64% MPS stake it acquired after the 2017 bailout.

After an attempted sale to UniCredit failed in 2021, the Treasury has been mulling the possible sale of shares on the market, but industry supervisors see a merger with a stronger peer as the best solution.

Bankers say Lovaglio, a respected UniCredit veteran, is working to maximise the value of MPS. UniCredit and Banco BPM are both seen as possible partners.

“We can finally start generating value for all our stakeholders, creating the basis for an adequate valuation of the bank,” Lovaglio said, confirming MPS’ ambition to pay dividends out of 2024 earnings, a year earlier than planned.

Core capital fell to 14.9% of risk weighted assets (RWAs), from 15.6% at end-2022, after revised internal risk models drove a smaller than anticipated 3.8 billion euro increase in RWAs in the quarter.

($1 = 0.9084 euros)

(Reporting by Valentina Za; Editing by Gavin Jones and Alexander Smith)

 

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