It had never happened, at least in modern times. The Covid 19 emergency instead imposed the postponement of all the meetings of listed companies, precisely because of the aspects of personal closeness that the shareholders' meetings inevitably have. In the face of the capital risks deriving from the spread of the coronavirus, the postponement of a few weeks of a bureaucratic act does not represent an element of concern: the accounts are known and approved by the various boards of directors. All you need is the passage in front of the partners to archive everything. Basically, a formality. With one significant exception: the Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the oldest bank in the world that is facing, once again, an event never experienced.
Towards the sale
Last Thursday, in advance of government measures, the Monte dei Paschi board of directors decided to cancel the shareholders' meeting convened previously for Monday 6 April. Some minority shareholders had already submitted their list of candidate directors, only the government list was expected, which controls 68 percent of the bank's capital. Instead the cancellation came. The key word: cancellation. The Monte del BoD has not postponed the meeting until another date, it has canceled it and this suggests the climate of indeterminacy that reigns today, even in the business world. It is simply not possible to hypothesize the end of the health emergency and only then can the convening of a new assembly be considered. If all goes well, today, barring government interventions, forty days are needed for the convocation of the members, the assembly of the Monte (and all the others) will therefore be held in May. Maybe in June. In the meantime, for life, at a distance, it goes on. So Monte dei Paschi will find itself in a once again singular situation. In all likelihood, in fact, the current board of directors will have to examine the accounts of the current quarterly report. In short, the CEO Marco Morelli, who in his time took a step backwards, not making himself available for the renewal of the assignment once the 2019 accounts were approved, to take responsibility for this first fraction of the year. In the midst of so much emergency, Covid19 gives indirectly a hand to the government, called as majority shareholder to identify the replacement for Morelli, the man to whom to entrust the fate of Monte for the next few years. A very delicate period, within which the transfer of the majority shareholding to a private entity must also take place and with modalities still to be identified. With a month of extra time a risky choice will be avoided, given that the names that circulated as potential substitutes for Morelli had not completely convinced. They range from Mauro Selvetti, CEO of Credito Valtellinese from July 2018 to February 2019, to the former Unicredit top manager Gianni Franco Papa, from Fabio Innocenzi to Alberto Minali, manager with a long and qualified experience in insurance companies and the only tra the four not to be immediately available. While the appointment of Stefania Bariatti for the position of chairman appears probable, the search for the chief executive officer, which belongs to the majority public shareholder, is extremely delicate. The bank has been exposed to all kinds of bad weather in the last thirteen years: from the purchase of Banca Antonveneta created without due diligence, to the collapse of the historic MPS Foundation, majority shareholder; from the leaders who ended up on trial (and sentenced), up to the saving entry of the state into the capital.
With great patience Morelli had led the institute at the end of an internal cleaning process and a new focus on the market. The result of this work had been recognized by the stock exchange, which on February 19 had set the share price at € 2.11. Last Thursday, the MPS stock closed in Milan at 1.001 euros, a value more than halved in just over three weeks. The depth of the collapse is the Monte sensitivity thermometer, a bank that has overcome the worst but certainly still needs time to stand confidently and independently in the world of credit and finance. In perspective, in fact, the sale of the majority shareholding can only take place through the realization of a fundamental pre-condition: the definition of all previous items, a public indemnity that, unique, can allow to start placing Monte on the market. The recent case of the Taranto steel mill suggests that the definition of a non-trivial detail can be complex. Also for this reason, the postponement of the shareholders' meeting for Monte dei Paschi and for its main shareholder could become an unexpected opportunity. A month more time to plan the next year and a half. (All rights reserved)