Even supposedly good debt on banks’ books may end up putrefying.
This week the world’s oldest surviving bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, tried to give itself a new lease of life by bringing in fresh blood at the top, following revelations that the Italian lender’s chief executive, Fabrizio Viola, and former chairman, Alessandro Profumo, are under investigation for alleged false accounting and market manipulation.
But the change of guard did nothing to improve market sentiment or performance. By Friday MPS shares had sunk to their lowest point ever — just 21 precarious cents above zero — and, once again, they had to be halted by Italy’s FTSE MIB.
MPS’s new boss Mario Morelli (formerly of Bank of America-Merryl Lynch, Unicredit and Intesa), faces an insurmountable challenge trying to steady the leaking ship. MPS must raise up to €5 billion as part of an emergency rescue plan to stave off the risk of being bailed in, and consequently wound down or chopped up into little pieces and gobbled up by its rivals.
Given that it would be the bank’s third cash call in as many years, investors are understandably reticent to pour yet more funds into the bottomless pit…
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