UPDATE 1-Italy eyes Eni stake sale in privatisation drive-sources
By Francesca Landini
MILAN Oct 25 (Reuters) - The Italian government plans to start selling state-owned assets by the end of the year to reduce its debts, with a stake in oil and gas major Eni top of the list, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
"We want to start soon. We want to sell some of the assets by the end of the year to show we are doing something," one source with direct knowledge of the matter said.
"The sale of the Treasury's stake in Eni ... could be done overnight, subject to market conditions," the source added.
According to the company's website, Italy's Treasury holds a 4.3 percent stake in Eni, the biggest company listed on the Milan stock exchange. The stake is worth roughly 2.8 billion euros ($3.9 billion) at current market prices.
A sale would be an easy and quick way for the government to pocket money to cut Italy's public debt, which is hovering stubbornly around 133 percent of gross domestic product.
The government is working on a list of stakes it could dispose without losing direct or indirect control over the companies involved, the source said.
"This would also go in the direction of reducing the presence of the state in the economy to make it more efficient," the source said.
In the case of Eni, the sale of the Treasury stake would not affect a 26 percent stake in the company held by state holding Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP).
CDP head Franco Bassanini told reporters in Florence on Friday the agency was also considering selling part of its 29.9 percent stake in Terna and 30 percent stake in Snam to investors.
Another option to raise funds would be to sell shares in shipbuilder Fincantieri, currently 99 percent owned by the CDP, through an initial public offering, the source said.
However, the government is not planning to reduce its shareholdings in either Enel or Finmeccanica any time soon, the source said.
The new round of privatisations is expected to start with the creation of a special government committee to be approved by a cabinet meeting next week.
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