* Stake sale comes ahead of bigger than expected rights
* Fintech Advisory now Monte Paschi's biggest shareholder
* Monte Paschi increased size of rights issue to 5 bln euros
(Adds details, shares)
MILAN, April 23 Asset manager BlackRock
has cut its stake in Monte dei Paschi di Siena less
than a month after becoming the Italian bank's single biggest
shareholder, raising questions over who will buy into the
lender's imminent capital increase.
A regulatory filing on Wednesday showed that U.S. group
BlackRock cut its stake in Italy's third-biggest bank to
3.23 percent from 5.75 pct on April 15, the day shares in Monte
Paschi fell 10 percent on expectations that it would raise the
size of its cash call.
A statement from the bank that day said it was evaluating
its capital needs after a media report said that it may increase
the size of its rights issue from a planned 3 billion euros
Last Friday the bank's board approved an increase in the
cash call to 5 billion euros as it strives to repay state aid
and prepares for this year's stress tests on euro zone lenders.
It expects to complete the rights issue by mid-July.
BlackRock bought Monte dei Paschi shares on March 18 from a
banking foundation that was then the lender's top investor. It
became the bank's leading shareholder at the end of last month
as the foundation cut its holding further to repay debt.
The world's largest money manager has become a leading
investor in several large Italian banks in recent weeks as cheap
Italian banking stocks have attracted investors willing to bet
on a tentative economic recovery and widespread reforms by new
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to boost growth.
BlackRock's stake sale, however, raises questions over the
stability of such investments as a number of Italian lenders
prepare to raise about 10 billion euros in cash from investors.
Banco Popolare is close to successfully completing
a 1.5 billion euro rights issue, while Banca Carige
must raise 800 million euros in the coming months and Banca
Popolare di Milano 500 million euros.
Fintech Advisory, a U.S.-based investment fund owned by
Mexican businessman David Martinez, is now Monte Paschi's top
shareholder with a 4.5 percent holding it bought from the
The not-for-profit foundation has sold about 30 percent of
Monte Paschi since the start of the year, leaving it with only a
2.5 percent stake.
Shares in Monte dei Paschi rose 3 percent by 1402 GMT after
a rating upgrade to "neutral" by Goldman Sachs.
($1 = 0.7248 Euros)
(Reporting by Valentina Za and Francesca Landini; Editing by