The Association of Liberal Profession Pension Funds (ADEPP), which represents Italy’s casse di previdenza, has agreed to support a new fund to help rescue the country’s struggling banks.

Atlante 2 will be created as a fund to invest in the banks’ bad loans, buying them at below book value but for more than would be paid by distressed debt specialists.

The initial contribution from ADEPP members will be €500m.

The new fund will allow undercapitalised banks to be supported without breaking European Union state aid rules.

The first beneficiary is likely to be Monte dei Paschi di Siena, one of the country’s biggest lenders, which is expected to have performed poorly in stress tests carried out by the European Banking Authority (EBA).

The EBA will publish the results later this week.

Alberto Oliveti, president at the ADEPP, announced the deal to back Atlante 2 after a meeting with government officials yesterday.

Oliveti told the ANSA news agency: “We are aware it will not be the most profitable of investments, but, on behalf of our members, we are trying to protect against future country risks, which could cost us much more than we might lose through this investment.

“There is now a great focus on the development of our country and its economic framework because it is from this our members derive their jobs, earnings and the expectation of a pension.”

The contribution will have to be agreed by ADEPP members, but Oliveti said the vast majority were in favour.

Italian pension funds were previously encouraged to invest in Fondo Atlante, a similar fund now backed by investors to the tune of €4bn, promising a 6% return.

However, many pension funds considered that this return was not worth the risk.

Claudio Pinna, managing director at Aon Hewitt in Rome, told IPE: “The implications for pension funds investing in Atlante 2 depend on whether they are defined contribution (DC) or defined benefit (DB) funds.

“However, based on the expected level of risk and return, it would be difficult to see how it could be interesting for a DC pension fund.

“It could probably be interesting for a DB pension fund, but for a very limited component of the accrued assets.”

He also said there might be implications if investment in the fund could put pressure on the government to introduce a more favourable fiscal regime for pension funds.