Bipop-Carire Buys German Online Bank for US$2.35B

ROME (06/27/2000) - Italy's Bipop-Carire SpA on Monday signed an agreement to buy control of Entrium Direct Bankers AG, Germany's biggest online bank, in a deal that gives the Italian bank a valuable foothold in Europe's richest online banking market.

The Brescia-based bank, which controls Fineco Online, one of the leading players in the Italian online share trading market, will launch a public swap offer for 100 percent of Entrium stock in a deal that values the German bank at 2.5 billion euros (US$2.35 billion), the bank said. It has already reached agreement with the Schickedanz family, which controls 68 percent of the Nuremberg-based Entrium, to purchase their share in exchange for Bipop-Carire stock.

The operation is the largest foreign acquisition ever made by an Italian bank, Bipop-Carire said in a written statement, and represents an important stage in the bank's expansion strategy into Germany and Austria. The deal also boosts Bipop in both IT and marketing.

Entrium was founded as Quelle Bank, a telephone bank, in 1990 and today offers online banking and brokerage services to more than 800,000 customers. With a population of 80 million, Germany is Europe's largest market for online services, and the number of Internet users in the country is expected to almost double to about 20 million by the end of this year, according to the German telecommunications regulator.

"This was an ideal acquisition for us," a Bipop-Carire source said today, speaking on condition of anonymity. "It has a database covering 23 million families in Germany and Austria and is one of the top five online share traders in Germany, with around 100,000 trading accounts. Our strategy is to apply our business model abroad, a model that is very aggressive, very fast moving and very attentive to new technology."

Bipop, Italy's fourth largest bank with 254 branches in Italy, last year bought Bankpyme Online, an online trader based in Barcelona, and early this year added E-Bourse in Paris, one of France's main online traders, to its international network.

The Milan business daily Il Sole 24 Ore described the deal as a marriage between German technology and Italian entrepreneurial spirit. It said Entrium's online trading technologies could replace those currently used by the bank in Italy, France and Spain.

Bipop confirmed its technological vocation Monday by also announcing an agreement to buy a 15 percent stake in Network Computer House SpA (NCH), an Italian company selling IT services to the financial sector. The bank has an option to purchase a further 15 percent of NCH at a later stage.

Bipop can be contacted in Milan at +3902-646-5196. Fineco can be contacted at http://www.fineco.it/.

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