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How the Brexit may have bought Italian banks a bailout

Consequences of other countries quitting the European Union may have bought Italy a little leverage at a key time.

Although it is widely expected there will be more pain than benefits stemming from June's monumental Brexit vote, there is one key business that may benefit: Italian banks.

There are a number of factors that converged at a key time to lend a hand to some of Europe's most troubled banks, S&P Global Ratings analysts said in a report.

They include rising skepticism of the European Union brewing in other nations and market turbulence generated from the U.K.'s vote to leave the union, and "could provide the Italian government with some bargaining power in these ongoing discussions," they said.

The last thing the EU can afford at this point is a growing exodus of key nations from its governing collective, and heading off a crisis in Italy would be a crucial step in preserving the union.

Venice, Italy
Jacopo Raule | Getty Images

Italian government officials have tried various methods to stave off failure in their financial system, the third-largest euro zone economy. S&P analysts point out that investor concerns about bank creditworthiness have been persistent after bad loans in Italy have grown in recent years.

"We understand that the government is negotiating with European authorities to set up a wider support package and, potentially, a bailout of troubled banks," S&P analysts wrote, adding "we believe that such measures could help alleviate some of the current stress that Italian banks are facing."

Now, Italy's banks are facing a perfect storm of sorts. Some of the country's largest banks, like Unicredit and Banco Popolare, have seen shares plummet by more than 50 percent this year. Neither of the banks responded to a request for comment.

While U.S. bank stocks bounced back from the Brexit, the same cannot be said for Italian banks.

Other factors, including extremely low interest rates, rising credit losses and a deterioration of asset quality also put Italian banks in a precarious position. But looking ahead, EU banks and Italian banks will continue to face pressure.

It will come from factors including how well European investment banks fared in the second quarter, said Julien Jarmoszko, senior research manager at S&P Global Market Intelligence. However, separate data from Dealogic show that European banks' share of global investment banking revenue is at record lows. At a time when EU banks are in need of big deals to help their top line, both Wall Street banks and upstart boutiques appear to be taking more market share of global banking revenue.

The coming months' earnings and regulatory decisions applied to Italian banks will have a key role in determining the direction of international markets. But they will likely have an even greater say in the future of the EU.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that the report on Italian banks was authored by S&P Global Ratings analysts.