Credit Mutuel sells 6.9 pct stake in Italy's Popolare Milano

MILAN, April 4 Fri Apr 4, 2014 11:27am EDT

MILAN, April 4 (Reuters) - French bank Credit Mutuel has sold its entire 6.87 percent stake in Italian cooperative bank Banca Popolare di Milano (BPM).

The French group said on Thursday its Caisse Federale de Credit Mutuel holding company had sold the stake in the Milanese bank on the stock market. At Thursday's closing price, the stake was worth around 160 million euros ($219.5 million).

Investors are keen to buy shares in Italian banks to take a bet on the country's recovery and reform drive of the new Italian government.

U.S. money manager BlackRock, for example, has become a key investor in Italy's biggest banks. Its country head for Italy said in a newspaper interview on Friday the euro zone's third-largest economy was "a big investment opportunity."

Credit Mutuel was a long-time investor in BPM having bought a stake in 2004. In December 2012, the two banks agreed to terminate in twelve months time a strategic and commercial partnership begun in April 2004.

In January, BPM's biggest shareholder investor Andrea Bonomi sold his 8.6 percent stake on the market after a failed attempt to turn the cooperative lender into a joint-stock company.

Addressing a request by the Bank of Italy to modernise its governance, BPM has announced changes aimed at giving institutional investors greater voice, ahead of a planned 500 million euro capital increase. ($1 = 0.7291 Euros) (Reporting by Andrea Mandala and Valentina Za. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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