Pioneer Auction Nearly Set to Begin

The possible auction of Pioneer Investments, which is owned by UniCredit Group, may finally be getting off the ground.

peHUB has learned that Pioneer’s book is nearly completed and should be out to potential bidders by next month. In July, I reported that the auction for Pioneer was set to begin in September because UniCredit didn’t have broken-out financials for Pioneer’s U.S. businesses. Books couldn’t be sent out until they had them, sources have told peHUB.

UniCredit, this past May, hired Bank of America to suss out all alternatives for Pioneer, which could include a sale, an IPO or a joint venture. Pioneer has about $228 billion in assets under management, including roughly $56 billion in the U.S.

Pioneer has received much interest from European banks like Natixis, BNP Paribas, Societe General and Amundi, the asset management joint venture owned by SocGen and Credit Agricole. Natixis CEO Laurent Mignon has said that it “makes strategic sense” to look at Pioneer, Reuters has reported.

UniCredit wants to sell all of Pioneer, which includes the U.S. assets. This puts U.S. firms like MFS Investment Management and John Hancock Funds, at a disadvantage. Both strategics only want Pioneer’s U.S. operations. The European banks appear willing to take on both Pioneer’s U.S. and overseas operations.

“Natixis makes sense because they’re a French bank so they have a natural place to put the European business,” says a source.

European PE firms like Permira, BC Partners and Apax Partners, are anticipated to be interested in Pioneer. U.S. buyout shops– like TA Associates, KKR, Bain Capital, Carlyle Group and Hellman & Friedman—are also expected to be in play.

In 2000, UniCredit bought Pioneer Group, a publicly-traded company at the time, for $1.2 billion. UniCredit then combined the company–which it called Pioneer Investments– with its asset management operations in Europe.

UniCredit could receive $1 billion for all of the business, a source says. The U.S. operations could go for $600 to 700 million, sources say.

Pioneer declined comment.