MILAN Feb 2 Intesa Sanpaolo is working on plans to set up an internal bad bank to house a chunk of its 55 billion euros ($74 billion) of gross non-performing loans ahead of stress tests by the European Central Bank, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.
Managers and shareholders of Italy's biggest retail bank are expected to discuss the plan to hive off so-called "non-core" assets in the next few weeks, the FT said, citing people familiar with the matter.
Intesa declined to comment. The bank is due to present a new strategic plan alongside its annual results on March 28.
Rising bad loans are the biggest problem for Italian banks as domestic companies have struggled to meet debt repayments during the country's longest post-war recession.
Even as the economy shows signs of emerging from the doldrums, the stock of bad loans at Italian banks is expected to keep rising this year, the credit ratings agency Standard & Poors said on Jan. 21.
The European Central Bank is due to start stress tests across the continent's banking sector in May.
The FT said Intesa's bad bank was likely to resemble that set up by Royal Bank of Scotland, which spun off 38 billion pounds ($62.45 billion) of bad assets for restructuring last year.
Intesa is also set to announce plans to shed minority stakes worth 2 billion euros, including holdings in Telecom Italia and Alitalia, the FT said. ($1 = 0.6085 British pounds) ($1 = 0.7415 euros) (Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Kevin Liffey)