By Lionel Laurent
PARIS (Reuters) - French investment bank Natixis (PAR:KN) confirmed on Wednesday that it could cut around 700 jobs as part of a cost-saving drive, adding that it planned to begin discussions with unions in mid-November.
The cuts would be the latest in a series of restructuring moves at France's youngest and smallest listed investment bank, which narrowly avoided collapse during the financial crisis and has sought closer ties with retail parent group BPCE.
Natixis said in a statement that the hundreds of potential job cuts, which were reported by Reuters on Tuesday, would prioritize redeployment of staff within the company and that any departures would be voluntary.
The bank blamed the "economic and regulatory context", at a time when the French economy is stagnating and when tougher global rules on risk-taking by banks are set to take effect.
The bank's management has already presented its plans to staff representatives, with the cuts impacting most business lines including equity brokerage, advisory and global transaction banking, according to union sources and company documents obtained by Reuters.
The cuts are expected to occur over the next two years, the sources said, and will mostly hit France.
Natixis has already gone through a first wave of restructuring and sold swathes of risky assets after it was bailed out by its cooperative retail parent during the 2008 financial crisis.
But like larger rivals BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA) and Societe Generale (SOGN.PA), the bank is preparing a new strategic plan and looking for ways to cut costs as euro zone crisis fears dissipate and investors focus on banks' ability to return cash and grow profitably.
Natixis took one step towards a new structure earlier this year when it said it would simplify its finances by shedding a 20 percent stake in BPCE, paving the way for higher dividends in the future.
Natixis shares slipped 0.7 percent, underperforming a flat STOXX Europe banks index (.SX7P). The stock has soared 85 percent this year, making it the third-best-performing bank stock in Europe and the best-performing French bank stock.
(Editing by Dominique Vidalon and James Regan)