PARIS, April 2 (Reuters) – Credit Agricole (CAGR.PA) could conclude talks to buy 150-200 branches from Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MI) this month following a deal with Italy’s antitrust authorities, La Tribune newspaper said on its website.
The purchase was first announced in February, and the paper said on Friday that Credit Agricole was now in advanced negotiations to purchase 85 branches of Intesa unit Cassa di Risparmio della Spezia, in Liguria in northwest Italy.
In addition, the French bank will buy a further 80-100 branches chosen for their proximity to the others to help Credit Agricole strengthen its position in the richer northern part of Italy, the newspaper said.
A final decision should be taken shortly before Intesa’s annual meeting on April 30, La Tribune said.
Credit Agricole declined to comment on Friday.
Under the terms of the February deal, the French bank said it had agreed with Italian regulators to take control over an additional 150-200 Intesa branches, bringing its total to around 900 branches in Italy. [ID:nLDE61H2MA] Under the February agreement, designed to help Intesa avoid paying a hefty antitrust fine, the Italian authorities said Credit Agricole was required to reduce its shareholding in Intesa to 2 percent by the end of 2011 from 5.8 percent.
Italy’s antitrust body was worried that the presence of Credit Agricole in Intesa Sanpaolo would distort competition in the country’s banking sector, given that the French bank already controlled Italian regional bank Cariparma. (Reporting by James Regan and Julien Ponthus; editing by Simon Jessop)