UBI Plans to Streamline Structure, Cut Costs to Boost Profit

Unione di Banche Italiane SpA, which converted into a joint-stock firm last year, announced plans to simplify its structure as part of a five-year strategy that also calls for job cuts and branch closures.

UBI will merge its seven units into the parent company to create a single bank by 2017, buying out minority shareholders in the process, Italy’s fifth-largest lender said in a statement Monday.

The bank plans to close about 280 branches by the end of 2019 and eliminate 2,750 positions, mainly through voluntary programs. At the same time it will hire 1,100 staff.

Chief Executive Officer Victor Massiah is seeking to improve asset quality and shore up earnings under pressure from sluggish economic growth and record-low interest rates. The plan targets more than 870 million euros ($957 million) profit in 2020 and a dividend payout of more than 40 percent of annual profit.

While the one-time costs of the restructuring will translate into a net loss in the first half, the bank said it will distribute a 2016 dividend “at least in line” with last year’s 11 cents per share.

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