Will Padoan loosen Mustier’s grip on UniCredit?
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Will Padoan loosen Mustier’s grip on UniCredit?

Incoming UniCredit chairman Pier Carlo Padoan could be a useful ally to CEO Jean Pierre Mustier, but the latter may not realise his dreams in Germany and Europe unless the bank plays a greater role in Italy, too.

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Pier Carlo Padoan’s appointment as chairman designate of UniCredit comes at a pivotal time for Italy’s biggest bank.

There’s a growing sense of impatience with chief executive Jean Pierre Mustier’s “no M&A” mantra. European regulators are looking much more favourably on bank mergers and acquisitions than before.

Shareholders welcomed Intesa Sanpaolo’s takeover of local mid-tier rival UBI Banca this year, lengthening Intesa’s valuation lead over UniCredit.

UniCredit’s share price has collapsed even more than that of other Italian banks since Covid-19, which is raising questions about Mustier’s prioritization of the firm’s status as a pan-European commercial bank.

Catalyst for change

Many see Padoan’s arrival as a catalyst for change, although the board was up for renewal anyway.

As a former finance minister, he is a prominent figure in Italy. He was the architect of drastic measures to stabilize the banking sector during the mid-2010s bad-debt crisis.

Contacts at state level will be particularly useful for UniCredit in the years ahead, given that today’s finance minister Roberto Gualtieri – like Padoan, from the centre left Democratic Party – desperately needs a buyer for Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS).

Rome has agreed with Brussels to sell MPS by the end of next year.

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