Switzerland’s largest life insurer, Swiss Life, has reported it is holding exclusive talks on the sale of its Banca del Gottardo with a consortium led by UniCredito Italiano.
Swiss Life, which has been trying to sell the bank for some time, said that it expected negotiations to be completed in the next few weeks.
The company, which has gone through a painful restructuring programme after a record loss of SFr1.69 billion ($1.36 billion) in 2002, said the consortium also included swissfirst bank and private investors.
A short Swiss Life statement said that the parties had agreed not to disclose any further information until the talks were completed.
Swiss Life had previously said it was in no hurry to sell the Banca del Gottardo, which is based in Lugano in canton Ticino.
SFr1.5-billion price tag
But it has said it wants at least SFr1.5 billion for the private banking institution, which made a loss of SFr160.5 million in 2002.
Gottardo made a profit of SFr54 million in the first half of 2003 and said in July that it expected to beat its full-year target of SFr80 million.
Switzerland’s second largest banking group, Credit Suisse, is also reported to have looked at the Banca del Gottardo but to have decided against making a formal offer for regulatory and business reasons.
Swiss Life has been selling off businesses, leaving markets and shedding staff, to return to profitability after a failed expansion into banking.
Its image was also dented by a scandal surrounding a secretive investment fund run by six senior managers.
Swiss Life posted a first-half 2003 net profit of SFr66 million.
swissinfo with agencies
Banca del Gottardo
Swiss Life bought the Banca del Gottardo for SFr2.4 billion in 1999.
The Swiss Life share price has jumped by 85% over the past 12 months.
Founded in 1957, Banca del Gottardo employs about 1,300 people.
Assets under management at the end of the first half of 2003 were SFr37.8 billion.
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