For months, there's been chatter among mutual fund industry insiders that The UniCredit Group
was looking to offload Pioneer Investments
. Yesterday, UniCredit confirmed
that it hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch
to "explore all strategic options to maximise Pioneer's overall franchise value."
For the better of part of a year, UniCredit has been quietly exploring its options with fund firms in the U.S. One hurdle that the Italian owner
will have to overcome is a lack of interest in Pioneer's non-US operations, sources have told The MFWire
One anchor weighing down a sale has been the relative underperformance
of its European asset management arm.
The hiring of BofA Merrill Lynch as UniCredit's i-banker stirs memories of March 2000, when Pioneer announced
it was hiring Merrill Lynch and
Salomon Smith Barney to "actively explore those alternatives that would maximize shareholder value."
Two months later, Pioneer sold
to Milan-based UniCredit for $1.2 billion in a deal that closed in October that year. Pioneer merged with UniCredit's Europlus.
In September 2005, Pioneer acquired the mutual fund business from AmSouth Bancorp. In January 2009, Pioneer inked a deal to
take over the remainder of Regions Financial Corp.'s mutual fund business.
UniCredit's announcement on Wednesday comes
four months after Pioneer saw a change
in its top ranks.
At the end of January, Dario Frigerio left his post as CEO of Pioneer Global Asset Management.
Pioneer Investments, which has offices in 31 countries, had AUM of $250 billion as of February.
Its Boston-based US subsidiary, Pioneer Investment Management
, had AUM of $59 billion at the end of February.
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