Economy, Business And Markets

UniCredit in Talks With US Authorities Over Iran Probe

UniCredit in Talks With US Authorities Over Iran ProbeUniCredit in Talks With US Authorities Over Iran Probe

UniCredit is in discussions with US authorities investigating the Italian bank for possible violations of sanctions on Iran, its chief said after reports that Commerzbank agreed to a settlement in a related probe, Reuters reported.

Commerzbank will pay US authorities $1.45 billion to resolve sanctions and other violations, the latest the big European bank to acknowledge moving funds through the US financial system for countries like Iran and Sudan,

Asked on Friday whether UniCredit could be the next lender to agree to a settlement, its CEO Federico Ghizzoni told reporters: “I cannot answer. There is utmost confidentiality.”

“We are in continuous discussions with the authorities, let’s see how it goes,” he said.

UniCredit said in 2012 its German unit HVB was being investigated in the United States as part of a global crackdown on possible violations of sanctions on Iran.

A number of big foreign banks have been penalized for sanctions-related violations in recent years, settling at a cost of about $12 billion. French bank BNP Paribas paid the bulk of that, forfeiting a record-breaking $8.9 billion last year.

Ghizzoni reiterated that his bank was not planning a capital increase. The bank reported a core capital ratio of 10 percent at the end of 2014, prompting speculation among some analysts and bankers that it may need a rights issue to bolster its finances.

“UniCredit does not see any need for a capital increase. That said, we want to further boost our capital base. Last year with small M&A operations we strengthened our capital by 50 basis points,” Ghizzoni said.

Tehran has been under sanctions by the US since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. However unilateral sanctions intensified between 2010 and 2012 over increased sensitivity on Iran’s nuclear energy program. Iran is now negotiating with the US and five world powers to resolve the 12-year dispute over its nuclear energy program.