Lansdowne Builds Up Short Position on UniCredit as Revamp Nears

  • UniCredit shares are lagging Italy's FTSEMIB stock index
  • CEO faces call to clarify role of executives involved in probe

Lansdowne Partners LP stepped up bets against UniCredit SpA, speculating that the share price will fall as the bank prepares to review its strategic plan.

Lansdowne increased its short position on UniCredit, Italy’s biggest bank, to 1.1 percent as of Oct. 22 from 0.9 percent on Sept. 30, according to a filing published on the Italian market regulator’s website. This is the third increase in less than a month by the alternative investment firm, data shows.

Andrew Honnor, an external spokesman for the London-based hedge fund, said the company doesn’t comment on individual investment decisions.

UniCredit shares are lagging Italy’s benchmark FTSEMIB stock index as Chief Executive Officer Federico Ghizzoni overhauls how the bank will revive profit, prompted by a worsening outlook for sales amid record-low interest rates. The CEO shook up management last month and now faces calls from regulators to clarify the role of some of the lender’s top executives who are embroiled in a criminal probe.

Three managers are under investigation in Florence for crimes related to the restructuring of a business suspected of association with the mafia, court filings show. UniCredit said in a statement on Oct. 15 that a preliminary internal audit has shown there were no anomalies in employee behavior.

Still, the market regulator has asked UniCredit to clarify the financing under probe, Consob Chief Giuseppe Vegas told reporters in Milan Monday.

UniCredit has gained 3.7 percent in the last two months compared with a 5 percent increase of the FTSEMIB. The bank is down 0.4 percent to 6.01 euros in Milan as of 2:38 p.m.

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