Belgian government mulls sale of BNP Paribas stake - paper
BRUSSELS, Sept 18
BRUSSELS, Sept 18 (Reuters) - The Belgian government is considering the sale of some of its 10.3 percent stake in French bank BNP Paribas to bring its sovereign debt level below 100 percent of annual economic output, two Belgian business newspapers reported on Wednesday.
The country has agreed with the European Commission to keep its debt below 100 percent of gross domestic product, and would need to find a further 1.8-2.0 billion euros ($2.4-$2.7 billion) from privatisations to do that, budget minister Olivier Chastel said last week.
Because of a bail-out of Belgian financial group Fortis at the height of the credit crunch in 2008, Belgium ended up holding 10.3 percent of BNP Paribas and 25 percent of that bank's Belgian arm, BNP Paribas Fortis.
Selling around 3 percent of BNP Paribas would be sufficient to raise 2 billion euros to reduce the country's debt, business dailies De Tijd and L'Echo wrote.
Belgium took its stake in BNP Paribas at 68 euros per share and a recent rally in the group's shares, which have soared about 30 percent in the past 12 months, has left them at 50.42 euros, limiting the country's book loss in the event of a sale.
The country could also opt to sell its stake in BNP Paribas Fortis but as BNP Paribas would be the only logical buyer, this is a less likely scenario, the newspapers wrote.
The budget ministry was not immediately available to comment.
($1 = 0.7491 euros) (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Mark Potter)