Former Carige CEO frontrunner for head of Monte Paschi: sources

FILE PHOTO: The entrance of Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank's headquarters in Siena

ROME (Reuters) – Former Carige CEO Guido Bastianini is the frontrunner to become the new head of lender Monte dei Paschi di Siena <BMPS.MI> as the nomination process at key state-controlled companies comes to an end, two government sources told Reuters on Friday.

The world’s oldest bank was taken over by the Italian government in 2017 following an 8 billion euro ($8.7 billion)bailout and its current CEO, Marco Morelli, said in February he would not be available to serve for a second term.

Its board comes up for renewal in May, along with those of oil major Eni <ENI.MI>, utility Enel <ENEI.MI>, defence group Leonardo <LDOF.MI> and power grid Terna <TRN.MI>.

Rome is expected to draw up its list of candidates for the boards – including the CEOs – by April 20, the sources said, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

“Bastianini is favourite as Monte dei Paschi CEO”, one of the sources told Reuters.

The economy ministry and the Tuscan Bank both declined to comment. Bastianini could not immediately be reached for comment.

Bastianini, 62, became Carige CEO in 2016 and resigned in 2017 after being challenged by the bank’s top shareholder, the Malacalza family.

Italy owns 68% of Monte dei Paschi di Siena and the new CEO will help the government to re-privatise the bank next year, as agreed with the European Commission at the time of its bailout.

To prepare its exit, the Treasury has been in talks for months with the Commission on ways to lower the bank’s problem debts below a threshold of 5% of total lending from the current 12.4% to lure potential merger partners.

Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri said in a newspaper interview this week that talks with the Commission on the matter had resumed in recent days, having slowed as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

(Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte; Additional reporting by Stefano Bernabei and Andrea Mandala in Milan; Editing by David Holmes)