Italy bank bailout anger as EU lets Rome dodge strict taxpayer rules | City & Business | Finance

In a deal that will cost the state about £14billion (€17bn), the good assets of failed lenders Popolare di Vicensa and Vento Banca will be taken over by the country’s biggest retail bank Intesa Sanpaolo.

Rules introduced by the EU last year forbid taxpayer money being used to rescue lenders without investors also taking a hit.

But investors are to be protected under the deal pulled together by Rome and approved by the European Commission.

The leniency given to Italy is likely to anger fellow member states, especially Spain.

Last month Santander bought toxic lender Banco Popular for a nominal €1 – but not before shareholders lost everything.

It is thought Italy has been allowed to bend the rules because many savers are retail investors in the country’s banks.

Inflicting heavy losses on ordinary Italians would be political suicide, at a time when there is already a worrying backlash against Brussels.

The EU is no doubt keen to avoid angering Italians after a recent poll showed about 30 per cent of the country would vote for the anti-euro 5-Star movement.

It comes after Rome has already been allowed to step in to rescue its oldest lender Monte die Paschi.

And experts said more bail outs could be on the cards, with Italian banks weighed down by about a third of eurozone’s toxic non-performing loans.

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: “So much for the so called new single European rule book and the much vaunted European Banking Union.

“It appears that there is one rule for Spanish banks, and the recent rescue of Popular Bank, and another for Italian banks.

“Let’s hope the Italian government has deep pockets given that this particular bailout is a fraction of the non-performing loans in the Italian banking system, of which it is estimated there are about €300bn.”

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