Pioneer Generates Interest Among European Banks

UniCredit Group’s possible sale of Pioneer Investments is getting some interest from European banks and asset managers, according to press reports.

Possible suitors include Natixis, BNP Paribas, Soceite General and Amundi, the asset management joint venture owned by SocGen and Credit Agricole. Laurent Mignon, Natixis CEO, told our friends at Reuters that a deal “would only make sense in the form of a long-lasting sales partnership.”

The auction is expected to begin after the summer break.

While Pioneer may be generating buzz, it’s unclear whether UniCredit will get back all of its investment. 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.

A Pioneer spokesman declined comment.

UniCredit, one of Europe’s largest retail banks, has seen its income decline. Earlier this month, UniCredit said net profit in the quarter ended June 30 was EUR 148 million, off 70% from from the year-earlier period when it reported EUR 490 million.

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.

Last month, peHUB reported that the Pioneer sale would begin in the fall. Boston-based Pioneer has $250 billion in global assets under management, including $62 billion in the United States. The firm has seen some departures, most notably Jack O’Connor, head of the U.S. institutional business who left last month.

U.S. strategics may be at a disadvantage in the process. UniCredit wants to sell all of Pioneer, including its European operations. But companies like MFS Investment Management and John Hancock Funds only want the U.S. operations, sources have told peHUB.

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