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Corrado Passera, the veteran Italian businessman and former industry minister, has teamed up with Swiss bank UBS to present a last-ditch alternative rescue proposal to the board of struggling lender Monte dei Paschi di Siena on Friday.
The proposal will be presented to MPS only hours before the world's oldest bank is expected to be ranked as one of the weakest banks in Europe when the results of the latest European stress tests are published on Friday evening.
The Siena-based lender has been racing to finalise details of a private-sector rescue package involving the sale of €10bn in non-performing loans and a €5bn capital raising before the stress-test results come out.
Some bankers are sceptical about the prospects for the €5bn capital-raising target facing its lead advisers JPMorgan Chase and Mediobanca because MPS has already burned through the €8bn it has raised over the past two years.
The involvement of Mr Passera, who ran the Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo until 2011, came as a surprise to some people working closely with MPS.
They pointed out that, this month, he was sentenced to a year and 11 months in jail for complicity in manslaughter over the deaths of several workers from asbestos poisoning when he was chief executive of Olivetti in the 1990s.
UBS's role also raised eyebrows because Andrea Orcel, its head of investment banking, advised on the ill-judged takeover of ABN Amro in 2007. That resulted in MPS buying its Italian rival Antonveneta, a deal that many blame for its current woes.
Mr Orcel and UBS have also been instrumental in helping MPS to complete several of its share issues in recent years that have left investors nursing heavy losses.
Shares in Italian banks have halved this year on concerns about their huge exposure to non-performing loans (NPLs), low profitability and weak governance. MPS shares are down 84 per cent in the past year.
The International Monetary Fund considers the woes of Italian banks, collectively weighed down with €360bn of problematic loans, to be among the leading potential risks to global growth.
MPS said in a statement on Thursday evening that it had "received two letters, one from Mr Passera and one from UBS, containing proposals concerning the bank".
It added that it had "promptly arranged the analysis of the content of these letters, and has already requested clarifications, additional data and information which it deems necessary to fully asses the terms and conditions of the proposals. Upon completion of this activity, the bank will promptly inform the market."
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