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Italian Banks Might Cancel, Reduce Dividends, Analysts Say

Italian banks may omit or cut their dividends on 2011 earnings after the Bank of Italy urged the nation’s lenders to be prudent about their payout policies in order to protect capital.

“Italian banks must adopt dividend policies that allow them to keep an adequate capital level,” the Italian central bank wrote in a letter to banks March 2. Banks will announce their dividend policies in the next three weeks.

Intesa Sanpaolo SpA, Italy’s second biggest bank, may cut its dividend by 1.4 cents to 6.6 cents per share, according to the average estimate of 24 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. UniCredit SpA, the country’s biggest lender, has already announced that it will not pay a dividend, after raising 7.5 billion euros ($10 billion) in a rights offer earlier this year.

“We have a bearish stance on dividends of Italian banks,” Fabrizio Bernardi, a Milan-based analyst at Fidentiis Equities wrote in a note yesterday. “Banks might easily avoid any internal debate about their dividends, simply reckoning that there is a huge pot of goodwill to be written down, which would hardly leave room for any dividend,” he said.

Following is a table of the analysts’ estimates and the year-earlier dividends. The figures are in euros.

              Number of   2011 Exp      2010         Earnings
              Analysts    Dividend*     Dividend     Date

UniCredit        28         0            0.03        March 28
Intesa Sanpaolo  24         0.066        0.08        March 15
Monte Paschi     20         0.005        0.0245      March 28
Banco Popolare   18         0.014        0.03        March 20
UBI Banca        17         0.081        0.15        March 27
Pop. Milano      14         0.005        0.10        March 27
Pop. Emilia Rom.  7         0.13         0.18        March 13


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