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Executives at the Pioneer Group of Boston are hoping that the firm's planned sale to one of Italy's largest banks will expand Pioneer's distribution abroad and its services in the U.S.

Pioneer expects that offerings from the mutual fund arm of UniCredito Italiano Group of Milan, Italy will provide new products for Pioneer to sell through its existing distribution arrangements in Germany, said David Tripple, president of Pioneer Investment Management, Pioneer's mutual fund management arm. Capital from UniCredito also should enable Pioneer to expand aspects of its U.S. mutual fund business, Tripple said.

Pioneer and UniCredito announced May 15 that UniCredito, Italy's second-largest banking group, will buy Pioneer for $1.2 billion in cash. The deal, which is expected to close by Sept. 30, calls for Pioneer shareholders to receive $43.50 per share, or about 40 percent more than the stock traded at on May 12, the last trading day before the deal was announced.

The deal was well received by Lens Investment Management LLC of Portland, Me., the key dissident shareholder that had pushed Pioneer into a proxy fight this spring in a dispute over management's performance. Lens said May 15 that it was dropping its fight to oust Pioneer executives from the Pioneer board of directors. UniCredito's offer was higher than the $42 per share that Lens contended during the proxy fight represented a fair price for the company. Lens said it would vote its shares in favor of Pioneer management as a result of the proposed sale.

"Lens' objective at Pioneer has been the company's sale at a substantial premium to its recent stock price and the announced agreement ... represents a victory in our effort to maximize shareholder value," said Richard A. Bennett, director of governance for Lens, in a statement.

Pioneer, which currently manages about $24 billion in assets, hopes the sale will broaden its reach. It has spent years working to develop distribution in European countries such as Germany. Pioneer has been considering trying to expand its distribution in Italy, Tripple said.

UniCredito's asset management subsidiary, EuroPlus, offers 90 mutual funds with approximately $80 billion in assets under management. UniCredito's asset management business will be named Pioneer Global Asset Management and will serve as the holding company for all of the firm's investment management business. The firm will conduct its business worldwide under the Pioneer name.

This marks UniCredito's first acquisition in the U.S. No other transactions are contemplated, Tripple said.

The firm does plan to try to build its U.S. distribution, Tripple said. Pioneer hopes to expand its internal and external wholesaling force and may expand its fund lineup, Tripple said. It is unlikely that there will be layoffs as a result of the sale, he said.

"This is not a cost-cutting venture," Tripple said.

Pioneer plans to distribute its non-money management businesses, including its venture capital, real estate and natural resources businesses, to its shareholders in the form of a new company, Harbor Global Company, Ltd., Pioneer and UniCredito said in a statement announcing the sale. Harbor's goal will be liquidating the company's assets and distributing the proceeds to shareholders within five years, the companies said.