Popular of Bari, the partners give the green light to the rescue. Gualtieri: “Great satisfaction”

The Banca Popolare di Bari is safe. The shareholders of the largest financial institution in the South gathered in an extraordinary meeting expressed their support for the bank’s recovery plan and its transformation into a joint-stock company. And, as the commissioners said, “Bank 2.0 is born”. The 35,000 total votes collected made it possible to reach the quorum already this morning on first call. The vote took place remotely to avoid the large gatherings that were held until last year in Fiera del Levante on the occasion of the assemblies of the Popolare.

The Minister of Economy and Finance, Roberto Gualtieri expressed, also on behalf of the Government, “great satisfaction with the outcome of the Shareholders’ Meeting.” The transaction, carried out according to logic and conditions consistent with market criteria, marks a turning point compared to a past on which the necessary investigations are underway “.

In recent days, members have voted online on the institution’s website or by going to the branch. The Computershare platform, whose representatives were connected remotely with the bank’s extraordinary commissioners, Enrico Ajello and Antonio Blandini, gathered in the Bari branch of Corso Cavour to collect the votes to start the meeting. The representative of the bondholders Augusta Dramisino, a notary and the representatives of the supervisory committee were also connected with them. Blandini announced: “We are now opening a conciliation table with the shareholders”.

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Banca Popolare di Bari, closure of 91 branches and early retirement: here is the 67 million plan

Over 97 percent of the members voted yes to the transformation into a spa and to the relaunch. Therefore, the work of the commissioners worked to convince the members (also through a package of initiatives in their favor, such as a warrant, free shares, compensation of 2.38 euros per share for each share purchased in the 2014-2015 capital increases). A result obtained also through the moral suasion made in recent days by unions and consumer associations towards their clients to vote positively.

A fundamental vote because the yes of the shareholders gives the go-ahead to the 1.6 billion euro recovery plan allocated by the Interbank Fund and by Mediocredito centrale, the operational arm of the Ministry of Finance which with an outlay of 430 million euros will now get the 97 percent of the bank’s capital. Money that will mainly serve to cover the losses of 1 billion 144 million euros left by the previous management of the bank led by the Jacobins, owners of the institute for over 40 years.

Those same Jacobins who in recent years had made a large number of acquisitions of other institutes through capital increases for hundreds of millions of euros, placing shareholders with shares of overestimated prices, up to 9.50 euros per share. Shares which proved to be illiquid and which gradually lost their value, plummeted to 2.38 until the definitive suspension of the stock at the end of last year in conjunction with the bank commissioner and the removal of the management (the president Marco Jacobini and his son Gianluca, co-director, were arrested for false accounting and obstacle to supervision in January of this year).

Those unsold securities that turned out to be waste paper, however, had caused disappointments and protests by the shareholders, which resulted in hundreds of court cases against the bank. But the intervention of the commissioners brought the institution that seemed doomed to bankruptcy back on track. First they shed light on the losses (the bank had a negative equity of € 346 million), then they reached an agreement with the unions that provides for 650 redundancies and a cut of 91 branches.

The most complex operation, however, was to obtain the go-ahead from the shareholders for the transformation into a spa and the recovery plan based on the money allocated by Fitd and Mediocredito which will allow a capital increase of over 933 million euros. The prevalence of a negative vote would have meant for the bank the forced liquidation with enormous damages from the employment point of view (the dismissal of over 2 thousand employees) and economically for the whole regional territory, not to mention the consequences on the shareholders, especially for the 15 thousand bondholders who would have seen the repayment to 2021 of the 218 million euros of subordinated bonds purchased in previous years.

Today’s vote actually opens a new path for the bank that will no longer be trapped in the capita vote (that same “one head, one vote” method that allowed the Jacobins to keep the reins of power for decades). Leading the Popolare will now be the institute led by Bernardo Mattarella. The goal is to bring the bank back into profitability within the next few years and relaunch it making it the hub of a large southern financial center, through mergers and acquisitions with other banks in the South. This is however another story. Certainly the People of Bari is now safe.

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