By Pamela Barbaglia, Maria Pia Quaglia and Gianluca Semeraro
LONDON (Reuters) - BlackRock <BLK.N> aims to buy a 30 percent stake in Intesa SanPaolo's <ISP.MI> asset management unit as it seeks greater influence over Italy's second-largest fund house, sources familiar with the matter said.
BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, is in talks with Intesa's executives and is hoping to secure control of the stake in order to play a bigger role in Eurizon's operations and its IT management, one of the sources said.
"BlackRock is the natural buyer for Eurizon," he said. "They will take a stake and use it as a Trojan horse to plug in their IT systems and control the operational side of the business."
The source said BlackRock sees the deal as a strategic stake acquisition rather than a passive investment.
BlackRock and Intesa declined to comment.
Being a leader in technology and integrating its global satellites onto its operating system Aladdin are key priorities for BlackRock CEO Larry Fink.
The company recently pulled out of a joint venture agreement in India because it couldn't deploy its own technology and much of its Investor Day earlier this month was focused on tech initiatives across its business.
Intesa has been working with UBS to review strategic options for Eurizon for several months, the sources said.
The Italian lender wants to retain control of the unit, which has 315 billion euros in assets under management and operates in Italy as well as Eastern Europe and Asia.
It would sell no more than 30 percent of Eurizon, two separate sources said.
Intesa has said it would like a deal with a global asset manager to pave the way for other accords with smaller or same-size partners. If BlackRock takes the entire 30 percent stake which is up for sale, such deals could only translate into commercial partnerships.
Yet BlackRock is expected to push for immediate control of the 30 percent stake, one of the sources said.
In unveiling a new four-year business plan in February, Intesa said it aimed to strike an asset management partnership. Boss Carlo Messina said it made sense to act quickly and reach an accord this year.
Speaking in Venice on June 15, however, Messina said the bank was still in the early stages of looking for an investor in its asset management business and was talking to several potential partners.
For Intesa the transaction would help drive growth at Eurizon, which is already one of the most efficient asset managers in Europe with a cost-income ratio of 20 percent.
"Size will matter more and more," Eurizon CEO Tommaso Corcos said in a press interview in March.
With a business model driven by revenues from its insurance and asset management arms, Intesa is targeting 10 billion euros in fees in 2021, accounting for 48 percent of its total operating income, up from 45 percent in 2017.
The bank has so far been focused on cutting its problematic debt, reaching a deal in April with Swedish debt collector Intrum Justitia <INTR.ST> to cut soured loans below 10 percent of total lending.
(Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in New York and Valentina Za in Milan; Editing by Jan Harvey)