Italy banks stocks regain ground as cap set on windfall tax

Illustration shows Intesa Sanpaolo bank logo and decreasing stock graph

Intesa Sanpaolo bank logo and decreasing stock graph are seen in this illustration taken March 12, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

ROME, Aug 9 (Reuters) – Italian banking stocks rose in early trade, regaining some of the ground lost after the government late on Tuesday announced a cap on a windfall tax for the country’s lenders.

Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MI), Banco BPM (BAMI.MI) and UniCredit (CRDI.MI) were up by between 1.7% and 2.5% as of 0730 GMT, while Finecobank (FBK.MI) was the best performer with a 4% rise.

Italy’s economy ministry clarified that its 40% windfall tax, which targets profits banks have made on higher interest rates, would not amount to more than 0.1% of their total assets.

The cap was announced after a market sell-off on Italian banks, with domestic leader Intesa Sanpaolo closing 8.6% lower on Tuesday and mid-sized rival BPER (EMII.MI) losing 10.9%.

Citi analysts had estimated on Tuesday that the windfall tax could bring as much as around 0.5% of total 2023 risk-weighted bank assets (RWAs) into Italian state coffers.

The proceeds are expected to be below 3 billion euros ($3.29 billion), according to sources in Rome and analysts’ calculations.

While other European countries, such as Spain and Hungary, have introduced windfall taxes on banks, analysts said Italy’s decision found the market unprepared, damaging confidence.

The conservative government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni had floated the idea of a bank tax, but seemed to have dropped the plan and the actual decision came as a surprise even to ministers gathered for a cabinet meeting on Monday night.

Despite the market jitters, government figures stood by the measure on Wednesday.

“Some bankers are regretting (it) but we are talking about an industry that is making billions and billions in profits without lifting a finger,” Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister Matteo Salvini told RAI public radio.

“Redistributing a small part of these profits is economically and socially rightful”, he added, confirming government plans to use proceeds to help mortgage holders as well as low income and low pension earners.

($1 = 0.9113 euros)

Reporting by Alvise Armellini and Francesca Piscioneri, Writing by Valentina Za; Editing by Stephen Coates and Alexander Smith

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