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Orcel halts disposal of UniCredit's art collection

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MILAN (Reuters) - Italy's UniCredit said on Wednesday it was stopping the sale of its art collection, the latest move by new Chief Executive Andrea Orcel to reverse a decision taken by his predecessor Jean Pierre Mustier.

UniCredit had announced in February 2019 it would progressively sell local art collections in Italy, Germany and Austria and use the proceeds mainly to fund social impact initiatives.

The bank said on Wednesday it would uphold its social activity commitments but was halting the Art4Future project that had led the group to part ways with some important works of art.

In an effort to make its collection available to a wider public, UniCredit said it planned to provide digital access and launch educational programmes for youths, as well as organising an exhibition.

"UniCredit is a pan-European group with an Italian soul where art and culture are at the heart of this country," Orcel said in a statement.

Rival heavyweight Intesa Sanpaolo displays its art collections, which last year it valued at 294 million euros ($347 million), in three museums located in Milan, Naples and Vicenza, with a fourth due to open in Turin.

Less than a month after taking the reins at UniCredit, Orcel overhauled the bank's top management set-up, axing a co-head structure put in place by Mustier in a push to simplify the bank's business.

While Mustier had worked to reduce UniCredit's exposure to its debt-laden home country, Orcel placed all Italian operations into a new standalone business dubbed UniCredit Italia "to underscore ... the important of our heritage and roots."

($1 = 0.8463 euros)

(Reporting by Valentina Za; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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