Italy banking: Status symbols
Investors can support their local lenders by preparing to sell them.
Italian entrepreneurs looking to secure their status as a pillar of the local establishment can either buy a newspaper or a local bank. Think of the Agnelli’s ownership of La Stampa, for example.
Newspaper owners can seek power through their outlet’s ability to influence opinion and to give or withdraw support for political leaders. However, newspapers do not make much money anymore and their political influence is diminishing in line with the rise of digital media and populism.
Are banks in the same category? Both their status and financial benefits are increasingly hard to justify.
It is easy to imagine that Vittorio Malacalza, the head of a wealthy family group in Genoa, might have had other motivations than profit when he became the largest shareholder in Liguria’s regional financial champion, Banca Carige, in 2015. He bought his initial 10.5% stake from one of Italy’s charitable banking foundations when it could no longer patch up the holes in the lender’s balance sheet. The collapse of Carige’s shares since then has not made the investment financially attractive so far.