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BTG Pactual Buys Generali’s BSI Unit for $1.7 Billion

Assicurazioni Generali SpA Chief Executive Officer Mario Greco is selling BSI as part of a plan to focus on the company’s main business, strengthen finances and boost profitability. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
Assicurazioni Generali SpA Chief Executive Officer Mario Greco is selling BSI as part of a plan to focus on the company’s main business, strengthen finances and boost profitability. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

July 14 (Bloomberg) -- Grupo BTG Pactual, the only investment bank publicly traded in Brazil, agreed to buy Assicurazioni Generali SpA’s Swiss private-banking unit for 1.5 billion Swiss francs ($1.7 billion) to help build a global private-banking platform.

BTG will pay for BSI Group with 1.2 billion francs in cash and 300 million francs of shares in units listed in Sao Paulo, Generali said in a stock-exchange statement today. The Trieste, Italy-based company said it will book a loss of about 100 million euros ($136 million) for the transaction, while the deal will add about 9 percentage points to its Solvency 1 ratio.

The Brazilian lender controlled by billionaire Andre Esteves is expanding internationally as the country’s growth slows. It’s added units in Mexico and Colombia, and in January Esteves said he planned to open offices in Geneva, Houston and Singapore as the firm expanded in commodities. Last week, it agreed to acquire Global Atlantic Financial Group Ltd.’s reinsurance unit Ariel Re.

“This acquisition reflects our confidence in the tradition and strength in Switzerland as a global financial center,” Esteves, the bank’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “It’s an opportunity to build one of the biggest global private-banking platforms.”

BTG was unchanged at 34.15 reais at 10:31 a.m. in Sao Paulo. Generali reversed earlier gains, falling 0.1 percent to 15.38 euros in Milan, valuing the insurer at 24.1 billion euros.

Global Platform

The acquisition will almost double BTG’s assets under management to create a wealth- and asset-management business with more than $200 billion in assets, BTG said. The bank plans to keep the BSI brand for its global wealth-management platform.

“The acquisition is in line with BTG’s strategy to diversify revenue,” Ricardo Kim, an analyst at brokerage XP Investimentos CCTVM SA in Sao Paulo, said in a report today. He said the transaction was positive for BTG.

Brazil’s rising inflation and slowing growth has led to a drought in the nation’s initial public offerings, reducing investment banking revenue. BTG has been building a global commodities business since last year as part of its strategy to offset declining investment banking fees.

Brazil, which hosted this year’s World Cup, has expanded at an average annual pace of 2 percent since 2011, when President Dilma Rousseff took office, the slowest economic growth for a Brazilian administration in more than two decades. Economists expect the South American nation to expand 1.05 percent this year, according to a weekly survey published by the central bank today.

U.S. Fine

Proceeds from the sale, which is scheduled to be completed by the first half of next year, may be reduced by “any fine established pursuant to the U.S. Department of Justice’s tax amnesty program relating to Swiss financial banking institutions payable by BSI,” Generali said.

BSI is one of at least 36 Category 2 Swiss banks seeking to avoid prosecution for handling undeclared American money by joining the U.S. Justice Department’s voluntary disclosure program. The U.S. is scouring Switzerland for names of tax dodgers who used the world’s largest offshore haven to hide money from the Internal Revenue Service.

Under a program announced in August, about a third of Swiss banks with “reason to believe” they violated tax laws asked the Justice Department to forgo prosecution. In turn, banks must hand over data on undeclared accounts and pay penalties.

Revenue Goal

Generali CEO Mario Greco sold the unit to focus on the company’s main business, strengthen finances and boost profitability. The firm, which set a goal of 4 billion euros of revenue from asset sales by 2015, will have achieved 3.7 billion euros with the sale, Greco said in the statement.

“This sale completes the disposal process aimed at strengthening the capital base of the group, resolving a key issue for us, and allowing Generali to focus on driving forward with its core insurance business,” he said. “This result is a testament to our team’s ability and commitment to execute a complex transaction in a challenging environment.”

BSI Loss

BSI had a net loss of 722 million Swiss francs last year as it took writedowns faster than planned because of new regulations for accounting treatment of goodwill, the bank said in April.

Generali’s net income in the three months to March climbed to 660 million euros from 603 million euros a year earlier, the company said in May. The first-quarter pro-forma Solvency 1 ratio after the BSI sale will exceed the insurer’s 2015 target of 160 percent, it said today.

“Once the announced sale of BSI is concluded, Generali’s period of balance sheet repair will be complete,” Marcus Rivaldi, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, said in a report today. “Focus now turns to how earnings and dividends can be improved.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Sonia Sirletti in Milan at ssirletti@bloomberg.net; Francisco Marcelino in Sao Paulo at mdeoliveira@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Elisa Martinuzzi at emartinuzzi@bloomberg.net Mark Bentley, Steve Bailey

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