By Mauro Orru

Italy's Intesa Sanpaolo is set to broaden its presence in Romania through the acquisition of First Bank from U.S.-based private investment fund J.C. Flowers & Co. The deal, whose financial details remain undisclosed, is expected to effectively double Intesa Sanpaolo's foothold in the Eastern European country.

Intesa Sanpaolo, the largest lender in Italy by assets, announced on Monday that it had entered into an agreement to purchase 99.98% of the shares owned by J.C. Flowers in First Bank. With First Bank's assets estimated at approximately 1.5 billion euros ($1.58 billion), this strategic move is poised to strengthen Intesa Sanpaolo's position in the Romanian market.

Marco Elio Rottigni, Chief of Intesa's International Subsidiary Banks Division, highlighted the significance of the acquisition. "This operation doubles our presence in Romania, a high-growth country with strong ties to Italy, and fits well with our strategy to capture value-driven opportunities while maintaining our focus on organic growth, aimed at driving profitability," he remarked.

Currently, First Bank operates 40 branches throughout Romania, catering to small- and medium-sized enterprises as well as retail customers. In comparison, Intesa serves approximately 60,000 customers across the country through its existing 34 branches.

The transaction is expected to be finalized by the first quarter of 2024.

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