MILAN, March 26 The biggest shareholder in Italian mid-tier bank Banca Carige is considering selling a stake of up to 6 percent on the stock market to pay back debts, two sources close to the situation said on Wednesday.
The Carige banking foundation that has a 45.2 percent holding in the bank is seeking approval from the treasury to carry out the sale, the sources said.
A 6 percent stake would be worth about 70 million euros ($96.44 million) based on Banca Carige's closing share price on Tuesday.
The treasury oversees Italy's banking foundations, not-for-profit entities with close ties to local politicians, that hold stakes in most of the country's major banks.
The sale would take place through a placement similar to that carried out by the Foundation Monte dei Paschi di Siena when it sold a 12 percent holding in the Tuscan bank on March 18, one of the sources said.
"It's reasonable to expect a similar approach to that of the Monte Paschi foundation", the source said.
Like its sister foundation in Siena, the cash-strapped Fondazione Carige is struggling to repay some 95 million euros in debts and faces further dilution of its holding if the bank goes ahead with plans for an 800 million euro capital increase.
Banca Carige had to delay the cash call, initially expected by end-March, to June to give the foundation more time to find a buyer for a portion of its holding.
Genoa-based Carige is one of 15 Italian lenders that are being scrutinised by the European Central Bank as part of a sector-wide asset review. Eight of them are now planning to raise fresh capital for a total of around 8 billion euros.
The sources said the Carige foundation's board might give the go-ahead to the stake placement at a meeting on Monday. Carige is due to release its 2013 results and new business plan on Thursday. The foundation and the bank declined to comment.
($1 = 0.7258 Euros) (Reporting by Andrea Mandala, writing by Silvia Aloisi. Editing by Jane Merriman)