La Banca MPS sta passando uno dei momenti più delicati della sua lunga storia.

Così inizia questo interessantissimo articolo del Wall Street Journal a cura delle due corrispondenti italiane da Milano e Roma del più autorevole giornale economico mondiale. Un articolo fortemente critico e preoccupante, che ovviamente nessun giornale locale ha ripreso… ve lo propongo nel suo testo originale.


SIENA, Italy—Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA is facing one of the more delicate phases in its 538-year history. The lender, one of the pillars of Italy’s banking system, will undergo stress tests in coming days that will determine its capital cushion, already one of Europe’s thinnest.

Chief Executive Officer Antonio Vigni said he is confident the bank will withstand the scrutiny, and he has no plans to ask investors for a capital increase.

“Today, we don’t see the need for a capital hike. Our priority is to reinforce the capital organically,” Mr. Vigni said during an interview inside the medieval palace that serves as Monte dei Paschi’s headquarters.

Monte dei Paschi is one of five Italian banks, together with Intesa Sanpaolo Spa, UniCredit Spa, Banco Popolare SC and UBI Banca, that have to undergo European stress tests.

The way to shore up the lender’s finances, Mr. Vigni said, is to continue cost-cutting. He also plans to squeeze more profits out of Monte dei Paschi’s retail-banking network by expanding the bank’s insurance business, which generates higher margins than the bank’s traditional retail services.

By year end, Monte dei Paschi’s retail branches will begin selling nonlife insurance products from French Insurer AXA SA, such as policies against property damage, Mr. Vigni said.

The bank already sells life insurance and pension policies though a 10-year exclusive agreement it signed in 2007 with the French insurer, which holds a 2.05% stake in the Siena bank.

Such measures might not be enough. Analysts and investors said the bank needs to take aggressive steps to strengthen its ratios ahead of potential changes in world-wide accounting rules for banks, known as Basel III, that are expected to raise capital requirements.

Some analysts also said Italian banks could suffer in future quarters from lower net interest income as the cost of funding increases because of worries over sovereign debt.

For the past decade, Monte dei Paschi has maintained a core Tier 1 ratio, a measure that compares a bank’s capital to its assets, of between 5.5% and 6%, Mr. Vigni said. However, the banker concedes that level is “no longer sufficient” compared with the 8% average core Tier 1 ratios of European peers.

“With the measures we’re taking, we expect our core Tier 1 ratio to rise an additional [one percentage point],” Mr. Vigni said.

Italian banks have fared better in the financial crisis than their European peers, because they eschewed high-risk businesses such as derivatives trading and were less exposed to certain financial products, which devastated their rivals overseas.

The bank, however, made an ill-timed investment. In 2008, Monte dei Paschi acquired Banca Antonveneta in northern Italy for about €9 billion ($11.44 billion).

The purchase propelled Monte dei Paschi from a regional player to a major national bank, ranking third in branches behind Intesa Sanpaolo and UniCredit. However, the move saddled the bank with liabilities at the start of the financial crisis.

As a result, the bank was one of the few Italian lenders that accepted government funding last year, issuing €1.9 billion in bonds to the government. Mr. Vigni said the bank plans to repay the “Tremonti bonds,” named after Italy’s finance minister, by December 2012.

Monte dei Paschi, founded two decades before the discovery of America, traditionally has maintained a highly insular culture, recruiting most of its employees from Siena and promoting from within. Mr. Vigni joined the bank when he was 19 years old, and worked his way up to the top post.

Monte dei Paschi completed a €1 billion bond issue on June 22, a sign that even in these difficult times, investors remain willing to buy their debt, thanks to their strong retail networks.

Shares of European banks have been hammered in the last months by concern about global economic growth. Monte dei Paschi’s shares have lost about 19% since the beginning of the year.

Still, the bank’s stock has outperformed its domestic rivals because of the lender’s relative lack of exposure to international markets.

Write to Stacy Meichtry at and Sabrina Cohen at

Fonte: Wall Street Journal