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Italy's struggling UniCredit bank to axe 14,000 jobs amid £15bn bad debts

Italian banking giant UniCredit is to axe 14,000 jobs by 2019 and make a 13 billion euro (£10.9 billion) cash-call to investors under a shake-up to bolster its ailing balance sheet.

The job losses will see the company shed around 11% of its workforce, while it is also shutting around a quarter of its branches.

UniCredit - Italy's largest bank - is planning to launch the record rights issue in the first three months of 2017 to help it remove nearly 18 billion euros (£15 billion) of bad debts.

It comes amid fears over Italy's banking sector following the country's "no" vote on constitutional reforms, which forced Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to resign and has led to worries that indebted lenders will struggle to find refinancing.

Shares in UniCredit have more than halved in value this year, while troubled rival Monte dei Paschi di Siena is seeking to raise new capital from investors to avoid a government bailout.

UniCredit chief executive Jean Pierre Mustier said the group was taking "decisive actions" to offload its bad debts and "improve and support recurring future profitability".

Shares in UniCredit rose 5% in Milan after initial falls following the announcement.

Mr Mustier is ramping up an existing turnaround plan, with the job cuts coming on top of aims to shut 944 of its 3,800 branches and overhaul its products and IT systems.

As well as increasing its financial strength, the group is also hoping its overhaul will see it post net profits of 4.7 billion euros (£3.9 billion) in 2019 and resume shareholder dividend payments.

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