The ongoing debacle of Italy's Banca Monte dei Paschi (BMPS) took a turn for the worst today. The bank's largest shareholders (MPS Foundation) approved (read - forced through) a delay in a EUR 3 billion capital raise, which the bank needs to avoid nationalization, until May. The delay (which will cost the bank EUR 120 million in interest) allows MPS more time to liquidate their 33.5% holding before their stake is massively diluted. Management is 'considering' resignation and is "very annoyed," but the city Mayor is going Nationalist with his delay-supporting comments that "we cannot let the third biggest bank in this country fall prey to foreign interests." So Europe is recovering but they can't even raise a day's worth of POMO to save the oldest bank in the world?
Italy's third-biggest bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena was forced to delay a vital 3 billion euro ($4.1 billion) share sale to raise capital until mid-2014 because of shareholder opposition, plunging its turnaround plan into uncertainty.
The bank's chairman and its chief executive may now resign after their plan to launch the cash call in January was defeated at an extraordinary shareholder meeting on Saturday due to the vote of Monte Paschi's top shareholder.
The world's oldest bank needs to tap investors for cash to pay back 4.1 billion euros in state aid it received earlier this year and avert nationalization
Simple game theory really - why would the largest shareholder "guarantee" losses now when it can try and liquidate more of its exposure over time?
But the cash-strapped Monte dei Paschi foundation - whose stake in the bank is big enough to veto any unwanted decision - forced a postponement until at least mid-May to win more time to sell down its 33.5 percent holding and repay its own debts.
Antonella Mansi, a feisty 39-year-old businesswoman recently appointed head of the Monte dei Paschi foundation, said her insistence on a cash call delay did not amount to a no-confidence vote in the bank's management.
But she said that carrying out the capital increase in January would massively dilute the foundation's holding, leaving it with virtually nothing to sell to reimburse debts of 340 million euros.
"We have a precise duty to ensure (the foundation's) survival. You can't ask us to let it collapse," she said.
Management is "very annoyed"...
Chairman Alessandro Profumo, a strong-willed and internationally respected banker who was formerly the chief of UniCredit, said he and CEO Fabrizio Viola would decide in January whether to step down.
"These are decisions one takes in cold blood and in the right place," Profumo said at the meeting.
"What I have on my mind is a 3 billion euro cash call because we need to pay back 4 billion euros to taxpayers. Today this is uncertain and at risk," he told a press conference.
Viola, sitting at his side, told reporters he would do everything "so that the ship does not sink", but that he could not take responsibility for mistakes made by others.
Of course, there is risk either way...
"It's important to carry out the capital increase as early as possible," said Roberto Lottici, fund manager at Ifigest. "The risk is that the bank finds itself rushing into a cash call later at a lower price than what it could achieve now."
"It's hard to think that the third largest Italian bank can't find a pool of banks able to support the cash call after May 2014," said Antonella Mansi, the president of the MPS foundation, at the shareholders' meeting.
and given the number of jobs involved... local officials are now reacting in favor of the delay (hoping for domestic savior)...
But in Siena, where the bank is known as "Daddy Monte" and is the biggest employer, fears that the cash call might sever the umbilical cord between the lender and the city run high.
Siena mayor Bruno Valentini, whose city council is the top stakeholder in the Monte dei Paschi foundation, said on Friday a postponement might help keep the bank in Italian hands.
"We cannot let the third biggest bank in this country fall prey to foreign interests," he said. "Monte dei Paschi is not just an issue in Siena, it is a big national issue."
So, even after all the lqiuidty provision; yields and spreads on European debt back near record lows; calls from US asset managers that Europe is recovering and will be the growth engine; and hopes that Europe's AQR stress test (and resolution mechanism) will be the gold standard for confidence in their banking system... they still can't find a group of greater fools to pony up EUR3 billion in real (not rehypothecated) money to save the world's oldest bank - that's a day's worth of Fed POMO!!!!
On an odd side note, we did note a major surge in ECB margin calls this week...