Monte Paschi shares soar, fuelling speculation of stake sale
MILAN (Reuters) - Shares in Italy's third biggest lender Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS.MI: Quote) soared 20 percent in heavy volume on Wednesday, prompting speculation the bank's top investor may have found a buyer for part or all of its stake in the bank.
Three sources close to the situation and a financial source said the banking foundation that has just over 30 percent of the lender could have sold a stake. None of them however said they knew or were certain this had happened.
The foundation and the bank declined to comment.
Monte dei Paschi shares closed 19.2 percent higher at 0.22 euros, with around 1.5 billion shares changing hands - 10 times the average daily volume and around 12 percent of the bank's capital.
Italian watchdog Consob was probing the share performance in the troubled lender and has asked large trading houses in Italy and abroad for information on the price movements, a regulatory source told Reuters on Wednesday.
The foundation would have to inform Consob swiftly if it had sold down its stake.
"The shares started rising in afternoon trade when U.S. players came in," a banking source close to the matter said. "It is possible that the foundation sold a stake."
The financial source said: "The volumes today cannot just be due to short-covering. The hypothesis is that a big player has been buying and that this is linked to the foundation."
The Monte dei Paschi foundation, a not-for-profit entity with close ties to local politicians in the bank's home town of Siena, has been trying to find buyers for its stake in the lender for months to pay back creditors. Continued...