ITALY - Prima and Anima, two of Italy's largest asset managers, have signed of a memorandum of understanding that will lead to an alliance between the two companies.

Prima, which at the end of last year managed €19bn worth of assets, ranked 195th in IPE's Top 400 Asset Managers, while the two companies are said to have combined assets of €41bn at the end of March this year.

Prima will acquire Anima from Banca Popolare di Milano (BPM) for €400m, with the company saying in a statement: "The transaction creates, for both asset management companies involved, the conditions to ensure significant immediate dimensional growth.

"Upon conclusion of the transaction, Prima Holding will have stakes held by Clessidra via Lauro Quarantadue, on behalf of the Clessidra Capital Partners II fund, as well as by the two aforementioned banking groups."

The third bank involved in the deal is Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena.

In other news, the Italian government has quietly raised the country's retirement age by three years as part of an austerity package passed yesterday.

The austerity measures will see a wage freeze, as well as 10% cuts in ministerial budgets and a gradual increase of the retirement age from 2015.

Giulio Tremonti, the country's economy minister, said they were the continent's most sweeping pension reforms, approved without demonstrations.

This is in stark contrast to France and Greece, where unions have strongly opposed any changes.

The Italian pensions institute INPS said reforms would gradually increase the retirement age to 68 by 2050.

However, women in the public sector, who currently retire at 60 rather than 65, will also see their retirement age increase by three years over the same period.

Under current guidelines, people who work for more than 40 years will be able to retire at whatever time they wish, while workers with 35 years of experience will be able to draw a pension when they just over 65, instead of the current age of 62.