Italy’s oldest bank surprises with huge loss

Italian bank Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS), one of the oldest and most prestigious lenders in Europe, on Wednesday reported an unexpectedly big loss for 2013.

Italy's oldest bank surprises with huge loss
Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena suffered a net loss of €1.439bn. Photo: Fabio Muzzi/AFP

The bank, founded in 1472, suffered a net loss of €1.439 billion ($1.99 billion) last year – a blow for MPS as it prepare to raise fresh capital to avoid nationalization.

The figure far exceeded a loss of about €900 million forecast by analysts surveyed by the Radiocor news agency.

But it was an improvement on the net loss of €3.168 billion the crisis-hit bank suffered in 2012.

In the last quarter of 2013, the bank made a net loss of €920.7 million, reduced from a loss of €1.590 billion in the last quarter of 2012.

MPS, which is preparing to raise extra capital of €3.0 billion after May 12th, reported it had renewed an agreement with a group of investment banks led by Swiss lender UBS that they would underwrite the operation which MPS needs to survive.

The money raised is due to be used to repay a loan of about €4.0 billion which MPS obtained from the Italian state last year.

If the bank cannot obtain the new capital to repay the loan, it would be nationalised.

The bank is a pillar of the economy in the city of Siena in Tuscany.

Media reports attribute its problems to the 2007 purchase of Italian bank AntonVeneta from the Spanish group Santander for €9.3 billion, which analysts estimate was about €3.0 billion too much.

The former management of MPS is alleged to have invested in high-risk derivative products in an attempt to make up for this, but these so-called toxic products then generated huge losses.

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