BlackRock stake sale frees PNC to hunt for another acquisition

PNC Financial Services Group Inc. is cashing out one of the financial industry’s most lucrative bets, selling off its BlackRock Inc. stake. The move will bolster the bank amid the coronavirus pandemic and allow it to seize opportunities to grow if rivals stumble

Photo: Lucas Jackson/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix/Reuters / X90066

Pittsburgh-based lender PNC announced plans Monday to unload its roughly EUR 15.7 billion (USD 17 billion) holding in the world’s largest asset manager through a public offering. PNC is BlackRock’s largest shareholder, a relationship that began about 25 years ago when the bank bought the business from Blackstone Group Inc. Steve Schwarzman, Blackstone’s leader, went on to say selling that division was “a heroic mistake.”

The decision to exit the investment now surprised some analysts after PNC long credited its BlackRock holding with diversifying earnings. But with banks across the industry facing the prospect of loan defaults, executives at PNC are positioning for another bet: That the firm can better withstand the turmoil and potentially make a major acquisition, according to people with direct knowledge of its strategy.

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