December 23, 2014 / 11:09 AM / 3 years ago

Bank of Italy official says no block on foreign Monte Paschi bid

The entrance of Monte dei Paschi bank headquaters is pictured in downtown Siena, August 16, 2014.Stefano Rellandini

MILAN (Reuters) - The Bank of Italy would not oppose a foreign takeover of troubled domestic bank Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS.MI), a senior central bank official said in a newspaper interview.

Bank of Italy Deputy Director General Fabio Panetta said past experience showed that foreign takeovers of Italian banks had been successful.

"Any reservations on the nationality of groups that could be interested in a merger with Monte Paschi would be anachronistic and counterproductive," he told the Italian daily Il Messaggero.

Monte Paschi is set to tap investors for up to 2.5 billion euros next year in its fourth cash call since 2008 as it tries to fill a capital hole unveiled by a health check of European lenders.

The cash call is seen as a stepping stone towards finding a buyer for the world's oldest bank still in business.

"The only relevant condition in assessing a possible merger is the ability to ensure a sound management of the bank so that it can lend to families and companies," Panetta added.

French bank BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA) bought Italy's Banca Nazionale del Lavoro in 2006, a year after Bank of Italy Governor Antonio Fazio lost his job over phone tap transcripts that raised allegations he had favored domestic bidders against foreign players.

Panetta also told the newspaper that he believed it was "inevitable" for the European Central Bank to modify the scope and size of its asset purchases to counter deflation risks.

He said it would be hard to significantly boost the purchases without also targeting government bonds.

With euro zone inflation at 0.3 percent, far below the ECB's target of just under 2 percent, the central bank is ready to review its policy stance early next year and consider printing money to buy sovereign bonds -- a policy known as "quantitative easing" (QE).

However, hawks on the ECB's policymaking Governing Council led by German Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann oppose QE.

Reporting by Valentina Za; editing by Keith Weir

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