Italy's Azimut eyes partner for planned fintech bank

By Giancarlo Navach

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian asset manager Azimut Holding set out plans on Thursday to spin off part of its network of financial advisers and merge it into a new digital bank, adding it was looking at outside investors taking a stake of up to 50% in the new unit.

Azimut said the plan was to list the business within the next 6-9 months in a move that would boost the value of their investment for existing shareholders.

Presenting the plan, Chairman Pietro Giuliani said it had already drawn interest from banks who might want to invest.

"We have contacts with various banks about taking a stake in the new bank from a minimum of 15% to a maximum 50% of its capital," he told a press conference.

"There is a lot of interest," he added, saying that Azimut would look closely at serious offers or otherwise go it alone.

The fintech was aiming for 160 million euros ($173 million)of net profit in its first year and an initial valuation of 1.8-2.2 billion euros, he added.

The existing Azimut Holding, which will remain as an independent and listed company, will benefit from a 20-year revenue guarantee on the income generated by the new company's existing assets. It will retain a stake of only 10% in the new business.

It will pursue growth through its current business model which includes a partnership with UniCredit to sell its funds to customers of Italy's second largest bank.

Azimut's Paolo Martini will serve as the chief executive of the new bank, which still has to gain the approval of the relevant supervisory bodies.

The financial advisors of the new, independent, fintech bank will be given 2% of the share capital each year, for the first five years, replicating the shareholding model of Azimut.

The bank will count on total assets of at least 20 billion euros and 1,000 financial advisors at its launch. It plans to hire 500 new professionals, including wealth managers, private bankers, and financial advisors by 2029. ($1 = 0.9248 euros)

(Additional reporting by Claudia Cristoferi; Writing by Keith Weir; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)