Lone Star joins race to buy Italy’s ICBPI, say sources-Reuters

(Reuters) – U.S. private equity firm Lone Star is one of four bidders expected to table offers for Italian banking services provider ICBPI by a March 23 deadline, three sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

The other offers for Istituto Centrale Banche Popolari Italiane (ICBPI) come from three consortiums — one formed by Bain, Advent and Italian investment firm Clessidra, one comprising CVC and Permira and one comprising BC Partners and Cinven, the sources said.

The head of ICBPI’s main shareholder Credito Valtellinese said on Tuesday four offers were expected for the group, valuing it at 1.9 billion-2.4 billion euros ($2.6 billion).

The deadline of next Monday is to give access to data for the due diligence appraisal process, the sources said.

A consortium formed by U.S. private equity firm Hellman & Friedman and U.S. asset manager Fortress Investment Group , which had earlier expressed an interest, was no longer in the race, they said.

Sources said earlier this month the two companies were lining up a joint bid for ICBPI.

The Advent-Bain-Clessidra consortium is seen as favourite to buy ICBPI because of its experience in the sector, sources have said. ICBPI is owned by several Italian cooperative banks including Banco Popolare.

The Italian government of Matteo Renzi has approved a landmark decree to reform voting rules in cooperative banks to make them more competitive.

The decree aims to consolidate the banking sector and will overhaul a system that currently gives all shareholders in the banks one vote regardless of the size of their stake.  of their stake.