Milan, April 29 - Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS) President Alessandro Profumo said Monday that it was not certain that the troubled Italian bank would be able to repay a four-billion-euro government bailout. "I believe we can do it, but nothing can be taken for granted," Profumo said. Repaying the government bailout is "the main challenge" facing Italy's oldest bank and it is "the only way to maintain (its) independence and headquarters in Siena," said the executive, who previously served as chief executive of Italy's UniCredit. However, Profumo said the lender was on the right track. "The bank has totally turned a corner with respect to the past in terms of transparency and capital solidity." MPS was in a good position, Profumo said, for its recent restructuring program put it on a good footing to compete with other lenders. "We know that all other banks will have to go down the cost-containment road and on this aspect we will have a competitive advantage," the executive said. That said, Profumo signaled that "there is much more to be done in terms of profitability, even though we're starting to see signals of an inversion." Italy's third-largest lender, which recently revealed losses of more than three billion euros last year, is at the centre of a huge fraud probe after a scandal over shady derivatives operations exploded in January. It has since emerged that a previously undisclosed series of derivative and structured-finance deals produced losses of around 720 million euros. Senior officials from MPS are facing penalties totalling as much as five million euros from the Bank of Italy for alleged fraud and corruption.
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di Giovanni Pastore