(Refiles to add dropped word 'problem' in final paragraph)
ROME Jan 9 Italy's Senate approved on Thursday a law setting a 3 percent limit on stakes in the central bank that single investors can own, lowering a previous 5 percent threshold.
Italy has revalued the share capital of the central bank, which had been stuck at a value set in the 1930s, and introduced an ownership limit that would provide a capital boost for banks. But a legal opinion by the European Central Bank has delayed to 2015 the impact on the capital of most lenders.
The law approved in the Senate says that only domestic banks, insurers, pension funds and welfare agencies can own shares in the central bank. The law now needs approval by the lower house of parliament. Changes are unlikely.
Bank Intesa Sanpaolo is the main shareholder in the Bank of Italy, with a 42 percent stake, followed by UniCredit , with a 22 percent holding.
Troubled lenders Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena and Banca Carige hold 2.5 percent and 4 percent of the central bank, respectively.
The Bank of Italy has said it wants to spread ownership among more shareholders. It sees the concentration of ownership as posing a problem of form, though not of substance. (Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte; Editing by Larry King)