Belgium may sell BNP stake in austerity drive - papers

Wed Mar 27, 2013 3:21am EDT

* BNP stake worth about 5 billion euros

* Belgium risks EU fine unless it cuts its deficit

BRUSSELS, March 27 (Reuters) - Belgium is considering selling off stakes in BNP Paribas or Belgacom as it looks for ways to rein in its budget deficit, the country's two leading business dailies reported on Wednesday.

The Belgian government is currently working out how to make further savings after a reclassification of its bailout of Franco-Belgian bank Dexia pushed its deficit to at least 3.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) last year.

It is considering selling its 10 percent stake in BNP Paribas, worth about 5 billion euros ($6.4 billion), according to the unsourced reports in De Tijd and L'Echo.

A spokesman for Belgium Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo declined to comment on the reports.

The government may also sell 3.5 percent of former state telecoms firm Belgacom, worth about 230 million euros, reducing its holding to 50.01 percent, or its 740-million-euro stake in Royal Park Investments, the bad bank created during the break up of Fortis bank, the papers said.

Belgium risks being fined by the EU for missing its 2012 deficit target, and needs a convincing plan to rein in its shortfall this year and next, a senior EU official said earlier this month.

($1 = 0.7777 euros) (Writing by Ben Deighton; Editing by Mark Potter)

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