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Crédit Agricole-Creval deal shows lessons have been learnt

Pre-2008 M&A mistakes still stand in the way of a bolder bank purchase such as Banco BPM.


Crédit Agricole’s €737 million cash bid for Credito Valtellinese (Creval) has disappointed those hoping for an approach on Banco BPM, Italy’s third largest bank.

Given Crédit Agricole’s capital strengths, a deal with Banco BPM might have strengthened the top tier of Italian banking and boosted eurozone financial integration, but it was probably wishful thinking.

For more than a decade, Philippe Brassac, chief executive of Crédit Agricole’s listed arm (CASA), has won political capital in the group by pushing for a reorientation – strategically and in the governance – back towards its member-owned retail banks in France.

Philippe Brassac

He has done so by railing against CASA’s pre-2008 mistakes, including investment banking over-exuberance and botched bank purchases in Greece and Portugal.

Today, Brassac would struggle to sell an acquisition as large as Banco BPM – which is also looking for a merger – to the French mutual banks, CASA’s main shareholders.

Creval, by contrast, allows him to answer questions about what he is doing to take advantage of the latest wave of consolidation in Europe, without looking like he is taking a notable risk on the group’s capital and reputation.

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