Mediobanca bets on wealth management, consumer finance in new plan

Italy’s Mediobanca said on Tuesday it would build on its wealth management and consumer credit businesses, defying criticism from its new top investor who wants it to scale up in investment banking. 

The bank also pledged under a new plan to return up to 2.5 billion euros ($2.8 billion) to shareholders through 2023 via dividends and share buybacks, up from 1.6 billion euros in the past four fiscal years. 

Chief Executive Alberto Nagel has come under attack from 84-year-old Leonardo Del Vecchio, a billionaire eye-wear tycoon who has built up a stake of just under 10% in the venerable merchant bank in less than two months. 

Del Vecchio has criticized Nagel for relying too heavily on the bank’s consumer finance division and its most prized asset – insurer Generali – and said Mediobanca should return to its investment banking roots. 

But the bank said it had achieved “excellent” results in the past few years thanks to its diversification into consumer banking a UK and wealth management and would stick to that strategy to drive revenue growth. It also reiterated its plan to expand through small and medium-sized acquisitions, after sealing a string of deals in recent years. 

Consumer finance is expected to remain the main revenue engine for the bank, contributing around 38% of total proceeds and growing on average 3% a year, with the network of branches expanding by 75% in the next four years. 

Wealth management is seen as the fastest growing business in the plan, with annual growth forecast at 8% and a plan to grow the sales force by 60%. 

The division will become the leading contributor to the group’s fee income, the bank said. Annual revenue growth in corporate and investment banking is forecast at 6%. 

Shares in the bank were broadly stable after announcement of the plan, up 1.3 % at 1320 GMT, with market reaction seen as a key test for Nagel following Del Vecchio’s swoop on the bank. 

One analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the targets looked feasible and that growth through acquisitions remained a pillar of the bank’s strategy. He said, however, the dividend policy improvement might not be enough to please the market. “One could have expected Mediobanca to be more shareholder-friendly,” he said.

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