Artisan Partners Asset Management Inc., the largest private shareholder in Spanish bank Bankia SA, is pushing for a merger between the state-controlled lender and Dutch bank ING Groep NV, in which the U.S. fund manager also holds a stake, Spanish financial daily Expansión reported.
The paper quoted Artisan international fund manager David Samra as saying that such a transaction would be beneficial for ING because it would gain scale in Spain, and Bankia would benefit from ING's IT systems. A merger would also provide an opportunity for the Spanish state to sell off its 61.78% stake in the bank and would be in line with the ECB's wish to have cross-border mergers in Europe, Samra reportedly said.
Artisan has not yet sought support from ING shareholders, the paper said.
There have been reports of a potential merger between Bankia and Banco de Sabadell SA, and Samra told the paper he wanted to ensure that such a scenario would not happen. Sabadell does not have a strong enough capital position to buy the bank and would not be able to modernize it to help it compete in the digital world, according to the Oct. 23 report.
Samra said he had expressed his concerns about such a deal to Spain's bank rescue agency, the FROB, which is the ultimate owner of Bankia and to Bankia executives, but had not received a reply.
Artisan holds a 3.07% stake in Bankia and almost 5% in ING through various funds, Expansión noted.
Bankia was bailed out for more than €20 billion in state funds after it suffered a €19.2 billion loss in 2012, just a year after the bank listed on the Madrid stock market.