Monte Paschi foundation in talks with Qatar on stake sale: report

Sat Feb 8, 2014 10:31am EST
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MILAN (Reuters) - The Qatar sovereign fund is in talks with the main shareholder of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS.MI: Quote) to buy a 15-20 percent stake in the troubled Italian lender ahead of its much-awaited rights issue, daily Il Messaggero said on Saturday.

Loss-making Monte dei Paschi, which received 4.1 billion euros ($5.58 billion) of state aid last year after being hit by the sovereign debt crisis and a derivatives scandal, is looking to raise 3 billion euros in fresh capital.

But the bank was forced to delay the cash call until mid-2014 after its top investor with 33.5 percent, a charitable foundation with links to local politicians, said it needed more time to sell down its stake to pay back creditors.

Without naming a source, the paper said investment bank Lazard, an advisor to the foundation, had restarted talks with the Qatari fund which began last year on the basis of a price of 0.20-0.21 euro per share, valuing a 15-20 percent stake in the bank at 368-490 million euros.

The paper added, however, that this was above the 0.15-0.16 euros per share the Qatari fund was willing to offer.

Monte Paschi shares closed at 0.18 euros on Friday.

The foundation declined to comment on the report, but has previously said that talks with foreign investors were ongoing. The Qatar fund could not immediately be reached.

The report also said the Qatari fund might be willing to subscribe to a portion of unsubscribed shares in Monte Paschi's cash call, hoping to take its stake in Italy's third-largest bank to 25 percent.

Both the bank's chairman and chief executive said at an event on Saturday they hoped the foundation will conclude the sale of its shares as soon as possible so the bank's ownership structure can be established ahead of the rights issue.   Continued...

The Monte Dei Paschi bank headquarters is pictured in Siena January 24, 2013. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini