A UniCredit logo is seen in downtown Rome

Italy’s UniCredit among suitors for Russia’s Otkritie Bank, source says

MILAN (Reuters) – UniCredit, Italy’s second biggest bank, is among lenders interested in Russia’s Otkritie Bank, which is looking for potential suitors more than four years after being bailed out, a person familiar with the matter said.

Once Russia’s largest private bank by assets, Otkritie was rescued by the central bank in 2017 during a wide-scale purge of the banking system that led to hundreds of lenders being shut.

The central bank has said it was looking at an initial public offering or a sale to a strategic investor to cut its stake in Otkritie, which nearly doubled its profit to 58.7 billion roubles ($788 million) in the first nine months of 2021.

Otkritie declined to comment. UniCredit, which has been operating in Russia since 1989, was not immediately available for a comment.

The news of UniCredit’s interest in Otkritie was first reported by Bloomberg News.

UniCredit shares extended their losses on Tuesday following the reports to close down 1.1%

Chief Executive Andrea Orcel said in December when presenting a new business plan that UniCredit would consider mergers and acquisitions in countries where it operates if it helped strengthen its franchise and meet its return targets.

Orcel, who built his career in investment banking to become one of Europe’s best-known dealmakers, walked away from the acquisition of state-owned rival Monte dei Paschi in October after failing to agree terms with Italy’s Treasury.

($1 = 74.5022 roubles)

(Reporting by Valentina Za in Milan and Andrey Ostroukh in Moscow; Editing by David Clarke)