MILANO, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Italian banker Victor Massiah said on Monday he was stepping down as head of UBI Banca UBI.MIafter nearly two decades with the bank, following a successful takeover bid by rival Intesa Sanpaolo ISP.MI.
Intesa last weeksecured control of UBI with 90% investor backing despite fierce opposition to the deal from its target's management.
Determined to snap up Italy's healthiest second-tier bank and drive profits through cost cuts, Intesa had upped the terms of its bid by nearly a fifth, eventually winning over local UBI investors who had first rejected the offer.
"We're handing over a group that is solid and reasonably profitable given the circumstances," the 61-year-old banker told a media call.
"The country's biggest bank fought long and hard for UBI, I don't think it'd have shown such determination if this wasn't such an interesting target," Massiah said.
He said the 652 million euro ($765.97 million) cash sweetener Intesa had added to its initial all-paper bid only partially reflected UBI's real value. UBI has rejected the improved bid as too low.
"We took a tough and combative stance to protect our shareholders," Massiah said.
He said UBI had shunned potential merger deals to avoid tapping shareholders for large amounts of cash.
UBI had been tipped to lead long-awaited consolidation among mid-sized peers in Italy. Only weeks before Intesa unveiled its bid, UBI had been discussing a merger with BPER Banca EMII.MI and sources have said it had held talks with Banco BPM BAMI.MI in the past.
"Could UBI have clinched an extraordinary deal? Yes. The management's ego would have certainly liked heading a bigger group but ... that was put aside in the interest of shareholders."
Massiah, a rugby enthusiast, said he would "bike up and down breathing fresh mountain air" for now, when asked about his future plans. UBI on Monday posted an 82% rise in second-quarter net profit helped by lower loan loss provisions which more than offset weakening revenues.
($1 = 0.8512 euros)
(Reporting by Andrea Mandalà; editing by Valentina Za and Jane Merriman)