UPDATE 2-IMF to review Italy banks' health in early 2013
* ABI will seek an independent valuation of banks' credit quality
* Review will put Italian lenders in spotlight (Adds IMF comment)
ROME Nov 26 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund will evaluate the health of Italian banks through its Financial Sector Assessment Programme at the beginning of 2013, the head of the Italian Banking Association (ABI) said.
Giuseppe Mussari added that ABI would seek an independent valuation of banks' credit quality, for comparison with the outcome of the IMF analysis in order to get a fair valuation.
"We will pay an independent advisor," he said on Saturday, in comments embargoed until Monday morning.
Italy's banking association fears the criteria used for the review could penalize domestic lenders.
Later on Monday, the IMF confirmed it would undertake a review of the Italian financial system early next year, adding that the assessment had become mandatory for countries whose banks have strong links with the global economy.
"This is part of the Fund's Financial Sector Assessment Program, a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of a country's financial sector that, in 2010, became mandatory for 25 countries with systemically important financial sectors, including Italy," an IMF spokeswoman said. "These countries must undergo an assessment every five years."
Italy completed the last assessment in 2006.
The review will put Italian banks under the spotlight at a time when deterioration in credit quality has become a major concern for investors, as recession hits the country.
The ABI's head said if the outcome of the valuation on the Italian banks were negative, the review could impact Italian borrowing costs.
"Our concern regards not only the Italian banks but also the snapshot of the whole country that will derive from the review (conducted by the IMF)."
The upcoming review from the IMF will include stress tests for the financial sector, a source close to the matter told Reuters.
"The starting point and criteria should be the same for everyone, otherwise it would be a fraud," Mussari said, adding he saw the risk of "another catastrophe" after the recapitalisations sought by the European Banking Authority weighed more on Italian banks than lenders of other euro zone countries, according to the ABI.
The watchdog for European banks forced Italian lenders to find 15 billion euros ($19 billion) to strengthen their capital, part of which was aimed to cushion their exposure to Italian government bonds.
($1 = 0.7717 euros) (Reporting by Giselda Vagnoni; Writing by Francesca Landini)
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