Italy’s UniCredit Falls on 43% Discount Offer

Discount on $9.8 billion rights offer is largest so far

Italy’s largest bank, UniCredit, saw its stock fall the most in two months in Milan after it announced that it would sell 7.5 billion euros ($9.8 billion) in shares at a 43% discount to Tuesday’s closing price, excluding rights values.

Bloomberg reported that Milan-based UniCredit said it would sell shares at 1.943 euros ($2.517) apiece, and offer two for each one held, according to a statement it issued on Wednesday. That is a higher discount than was offered by either Commerzbank in a May 2011 rights offering for 5.3 billion euros, at 30%, or by HSBC Holdings in its own March 2009 offering for approximately $17.7 billion that came in at 39%.

Luigi Tramontana, an analyst at Banca Akros who has a hold recommendation on the stock, commented in a statement on Wednesday, “The discount is the highest seen in the European banking sector over the last few months. We remain prudent on the stock.”

Federico Ghizzoni, CEO of UniCredit, is tackling a third-quarter loss of 10.6 billion euros ($13.7 billion) by slashing staff and costs in an attempt to strengthen the bank’s bottom line and increase its profitability. The sale is part of the bank’s effort to meet European Banking Authority capital targets and eliminate a shortfall in doing so.

Shares of UniCredit dropped as much as 9.9%, but resumed trading in Milan, where they ended the day down 14.5% to 5.432 euros. The bank has lost 25% of its stock value since the offering was announced on Nov. 14; currently the bank is valued at 11.3 billion euros.

Still, there are some takers. Investors such as Allianz, Carimonte Holding and Fondazione CRT have already committed to subscribing to their rights for 14% percent of the offer, according to the bank, and another 10% of the offer has seen shareholders begin to participate, although without binding commitments.

The Central Bank of Libya was also allowed by the government’s financial security committee to participate so that it can maintain its 5% percent stake.

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