Italian banks sell majority share in SIA

4 December 2013

Italian payments processor SIA is changing ownership as key stakeholders such as UniCredit and Intesa Sanpaolo, which respectively own 20.1% and 28.9% of the majority 59.3% bank-owned firm sell out to the state’s Fondo Strategico Italiano (FSI), asset manager Orizzonte SGR and infrastructure fund F2i. The combined deal is worth EUR765m with each respectively buying 42.3%, 6.7% and a 10.3% stake, with the former supplying 77m euros in debt financing, alongside its EUR204m purchase price.

UniCredit and Intesa Sanpaolo are keeping a small 4% each of SIA but others banks such as Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena are selling their entire stake (5.8%), as is BNL (4.5%).

The move is intended to release investment funds for electronic e-commerce initiatives to fight off the disintermediation threat from newcomer tech firms and others, claims the Italian government in the form of the state-backed FSI fund, although the desire to improve the management of public debt in Italy and the involvement of Monte Titoli and Borsa italiana is also thought to be a driver. Fresh funds will also be useful to support large SIA upgrades such as its 4-CentralBank-Network (4CBNet) project with Colt, which is being rolled out now for the T2S European single securities settlement platform due in 2015, and for single euro payments area (SEPA)-driven compliance and payment improvement projects. SIA technology is also supporting the rollout of MyBank in Italy.

"FSI has invested in SIA with the aim of accelerating the penetration of e-payments, improving the support for the management of public debt - through the partnership with Monte Titoli and Borsa italiana - and stimulating the digitalization of public administration," confirmed Maurizio Tamagnini, chief executive officer (CEO) at FSI.

Founded by the Bank of Italy in 1977, SIA presently has revenues of EUR350m and 1500 staff. It handles 69m payment cards and processes 30bn payments and capital markets transactions a year.

The boss of SIA, CEO Massimo Arrighetti, who is staying in place for the time-being, is confident that the new shareholding structure will place it at the forefront of the transformation taking place in the European payments industry, driven on by SEPA and growing newcomer competition from PayPal other such technology and mobile-based market entrants. “On the domestic front, we will continue in our commitment to developing electronic e-money and realising the [Italian government’s] Digital Agenda programme with our infrastructure and capabilities,” he added, while hailing this new phase in SIA's development and a deal that, "opens up fresh opportunities for growth at domestic and international level.”

By Neil Ainger

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