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Georges Pauget on Italian banks: Divorce Italian style

One of the surprise consequences of the merger between Intesa and Sanpaolo IMI was that it resulted in yet another foreign bank carving out a strong presence in the Italian market. In exchange for its support for the merger with Sanpaolo, Intesa ceded to French bank Crédit Agricole, a long-time partner and investor, control of two regional banks and some 200 Intesa branches. But there are still questions about the future of the former partners’ asset management joint venture and some analysts question the generosity of the divorce settlement. Georges Pauget, CEO of Crédit Agricole, speaks to Peter Koh.

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Georges Pauget, CEO of Crédit Agricole Georges Pauget: has gained a very efficient franchise in Italy for Crédit Agricole

Crédit Agricole has held a stake in Intesa for a long time and there must have been many options that you could theoretically have pursued, so why did you choose to do this deal in particular?

Our stake in Intesa is a very long story and I think it’s very important to not forget the roots of this operation. Our stake originates from our holding in Banco Ambrosiano, which we took just after its difficulties. After that the bank merged with Banco Veneto to form Ambroveneto, and Ambroveneto merged with Caripolo in 1998 to become Intesa, and Intesa merged with Banca Commerciale Italiana in 1999. So when we made our original investment it was not in a huge national group but a bank the size of a regional bank.

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