* Dexma sold for 380 mln euros
* Dexia says deal will cut its liquidity needs by 12 bln
* France, CDC, Dexia Credit Locale to take 31.7 pct stakes
* Deal aimed at easing municipal credit crunch in France (Adds additional background, details)
By Julien Ponthus and Christian Plumb
PARIS, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Bailed out bank Dexia will sell control of its French municipal finance arm to the French government and state banks for 380 million euros ($501 million) as part of a deal aimed at restoring the flow of credit to the country’s towns and cities.
But Dexia said the sale will result in a 1 billion euro loss, in the latest blow for the bank which France, Belgium and Luxembourg were forced to rescue last October. The agreement, which Dexia said would cut its liquidity requirement by 12 billion euros, is the latest step in the group’s dismantlement.
The government takeover is part of a bid to plug a funding gap for French towns, cities and other public entities estimated at between 10 billion and 12 billion euros which has emerged as a potential headache for President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The rescue of Dexia Municipal Agency (Dexma) is part of a two-track solution to that problem which also involves the creation of a public bank that will be 65 percent controlled by La Banque Postale and 35 percent by CDC.
Dexma, which will keep a primary role in financing the loans granted by the public bank, will in turn be acquired by a separate entity to be 31.7 percent controlled by France, and state bank Caisse des Depots et Consignations (CDC) each and 4.9 percent by the country’s postal bank, La Banque Postale.
Dexia’s Dexia Credit Local (DCL) unit, which until this fall was the No. 1 lender to French municipalities via financing obtained by Dexma, will keep 32.7 percent of the unit.
CDC said in a separate statement that it is providing up to 12.5 billion euros in liquidity to the new bank, which should begin extending new loans to French municipalities by June.
Earlier on Friday Prime Minister Francois Fillon announced that the government would make 2 billion to 5 billion euros in loans available through the CDC to ease the municipal financing credit crunch, caused by Dexia’s near collapse last fall.
Further narrowing municipalities’ borrowing options, France’s largest banks have been under increasing pressure to trim their own balance sheets to meet tougher capital requirements and as their own liquidity was squeezed.
Fillon said the government funds were being made available as a stopgap measure before the creation of the CDC-Banque Postale joint venture.
For Sarkozy, who faces an uphill re-election battle, France’s municipal funding crisis is one more potential problem after the country lost its triple-A sovereign credit rating from Standard and Poor’s and grapples with near 10 percent unemployment.
Dexma has 80 billion euros ($106 billion) in loans on its books. Fears that some could prove toxic have made CDC officials baulk at an earlier plan under which the state bank would have taken a 65 percent stake, leading the French government itself to intervene directly alongside it.
The effective nationalisation of Dexma -- CDC and Banque Postale are controlled by the French state -- in some ways brings Dexia’s municipal lending arm back to its roots.
The lender was created in 1996 from the merger of Credit Locale de France -- a former unit of the CDC which had been privatized -- and Belgian bank Credit Communal de Belgique
While the disposal of the French municipal lending business solves a key part of the Dexia puzzle, the bank is still trying to sell other units such as its asset management business and Turkish arm Denizbank. ($1 = 0.7582 euros) (Additional reporting by Yann Le Guernigou, Matthieu Protard and Ben Deighton; Writing by Elena Berton; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters)