Private equity fund Pamplona has bought 5 percent of Italy's biggest bank, UniCredit, becoming its second-largest shareholder, in a vote of confidence on the bank's future in the face of a deepening eurozone crisis.
The stake is worth about 750 million euros ($935.33 million) at current market prices and is one of the largest investments by a foreign operator in a listed Italian group this year.
The stake was bought by Pamplona Global Financial Institutions Fund, an investment fund of Pamplona Capital Management, the fund said in a statement.
A source familiar with the situation said Pamplona already owned just under 2 percent of UniCredit, a stake too small to be made public under Italian disclosure rules.
The purchase makes Pamplona the second-largest investor in UniCredit behind the Abu Dhabi investment fund Aabar, which owns 6.5 percent of the bank.
The fund specializes in investing in global financial companies that are leaders in their markets.
A source close to the deal said Pamplona believed UniCredit was well positioned to benefit from the upcoming restructuring of the European banking industry.
"The management team is excellent, their footprint in Europe is very good and they can seize growth opportunities in emerging European markets," the source told Reuters.
UK-based Pamplona Capital Management manages more than $6 billion in assets for a range of clients, including pension funds.
UniCredit shared closed down 2.44 percent on Tuesday. The stock has fallen more than 40 percent this year.
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