Intesa Sanpaolo, which was formed by a merger of two large Italian banks in January, is already looking for acquisitions and has made an offer for CR Firenze, a Tuscan bank with a market capitalisation of more than Eur4.5bn ($6.1bn), according to Financial Times.

Corrado Passera, Intesa Sanpaolo`s chief executive, said in an interview that the possible purchase of CR Firenze could be followed by further deals in two other large Italian regions. Intesa also wanted to buy asset management companies in western Europe and was still looking at buying a bank in eastern Europe.

The aggressive growth strategy was outlined by Mr Passera as the bank, formed by the merger of Banca Intesa and Sanpaolo IMI, presented its first three-year business plan.

Mr Passera did not say how much Intesa had offered for CR Firenze, but said it would be a cash deal. "We have a very interesting offer on the table and one that no other bank can propose. We are confident they will consider it," he said.

Intesa Sanpaolo also wanted to increase its presence in the Marche and Emilia-Romagna regions, said Mr Passera. Together with Tuscany, the three regions represented areas where Intesa Sanpaolo could have more branches.

The bank, which is one of Europe`s largest with a market capitalisation of about Euro75bn, is already the largest in Italy.

Mr Passera said the bank would be looking for asset management acquisitions. "We will be one of the big boys [in asset management]," he said. "In a couple of moves - if we are capable and lucky enough - we might be in the top 10 in Europe."

The emphasis on asset management is a reversal of Intesa`s stance before the merger. "At Intesa, building a successful asset management company would have been too expensive and would have taken too long," said Mr Passera. "In the new group, we can afford to devote resources and management attention to this very competitive industry."

He confirmed a $1.3bn purchase of Ukraine`s Ukrsotsbank had collapsed because of a lack of authorisation from the country`s central bank. But he said Intesa Sanpaolo wanted to buy another bank in the region.

As expected, Intesa Sanpaolo announced a series of special dividends. Mr Passera said there was surplus capital, in part from the sale of branches to Crédit Agricole of France.

Intesa Sanpaolo will pay out Euro2bn in additional dividends this year and in 2008, and said there could also be an extra dividend in 2009. But Mr Passera said a decision on whether to spin off part of Eurizon, Sanpaolo`s asset management and insurance business, had again been delayed.

This news was monitored by the Action Ukraine Monitoring Service for the Action Ukraine Report (AUR), Morgan Williams, SigmaBleyzer, Editor.