Belgium plans more asset sales - FinMin to paper

Mon Apr 29, 2013 3:58am EDT

* Geens says bad bank sale not enough to hit debt target

* Could sell BNP Paribas stake after call option buy-back

* Government says no immediate plans to sell stake

BRUSSELS, April 29 (Reuters) - The Belgian state will need to sell more assets this year to keep its debt below 100 percent of gross domestic product, as the European Commission demands, its finance minister said in an interview published on Monday.

The comments by Koen Geens to daily De Standaard followed the repurchase by the government of a right-to-buy option in BNP Paribas, suggesting it may look to sell some or all of its 10.3 percent holding in the French bank.

The government said it no immediate plans to sell the stake.

AA-rated Belgium said on Saturday it would receive about 1 billion euros from the sale of its stake in the bad bank left over from the 2008 break-up of financial services group Fortis.

That matched the figure it mentioned last month as necessary to cut its debt below the 100 percent of GDP level this year.

"(But) we are not there yet," Finance Minister Koen Geens told De Standaard. "After this deal we are, on the basis of current parameters of economic growth, with a state debt of 100.17 percent."

That meant another transaction of a similar value was needed.

The stake in BNP Paribas is worth about 5 billion euros ($6.51 billion). The call option on the stake was bought back on Saturday from Ageas, the insurer left over from the break-up of Fortis for 144 million euros.

Belgium might also consider selling its 53.5 percent holding in telecom operator Belgacom, worth about 3 billion euros.

The European Commission has said Belgium must keep its debt below 100 percent of GDP and reduce its structural fiscal deficit.

($1 = 0.7676 euros) (Writing By Ben Deighton; editing by Philip Blenkinsop, John Stonestreet)

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