ROME - Shares in Intesa Sanpaolo leapt Monday following a report the Italian bank is mulling a bid for Coutts, the British private bank that counts Queen Elizabeth II among its clients.
In mid-morning trading on the Milan bourse, shares in the bank were up 1.69 per cent as dealers digested remarks by its chief executive, Carlo Messina indicating that he was keen to spend a cash pile that has risen from 13 billion euros ($16 billion) at the end of last year to 16 billion.
"We are by definition a potential consolidator," Messina told the Financial Times, adding that asset managers and insurers were also potential targets, alongside private banks.
Coutts belongs to Britain's state-owned RBS, which recently announced that it wants to sell the international business of its private banking arm but has so far ruled out selling the British operation.
According to the FT, Intesa is seeking to persuade RBS to part with all of Coutts.
Zurich-based Coutts International has been valued at up to $1 billion and has attracted firm interest from Switzerland Julius Baer and EFG. Singapore's DBS is also reportedly considering a bid.
Founded in 1692, Coutts was, for much of its history, the bank of choice for the British nobility.
In recent years it has sought to secure the business of richly-rewarded figures from the worlds of sport and entertainment, regularly presenting its services at the Cannes film festival.
Would-be clients reportedly need to have at least a million pounds to invest if they want to join the British monarch on the roll of customers.
RBS is 80 per cent owned by the British state which rescued it during the global financial crisis with an unprecedented 45 billion pound ($70 billion, 56 billion euro) bailout.
Intesa emerged from the European Central Bank's recent stress tests as one of the strongest banks in the eurozone.