MILAN Dec 12 Italian fund Idea Fimit Sgr has emerged as a frontrunner to buy Risanamento's huge Santa Giulia development area in Milan and could be close to exclusive talks, two sources familiar with the matter said.
Risanamento was the biggest Italian real estate victim of a financial crunch in 2009 when falling property prices and the end of easy lending made its large debt hard to sustain.
The board of Risanamento, which is burdened by 1.9 billion euros ($2.5 billion) of debt, is due to meet on Thursday to review two offers for Santa Giulia, one from Idea Fimit and the other from real estate asset manager Hines Italia Sgr.
One source said the proposal from Idea Fimit appeared to be "more attractive", while the second one described it as possibly offering more advantages.
Risanamento will likely decide on Thursday to continue talks with one of the bidders on an exclusive basis, the sources said, but a postponement of the decision could not be ruled out.
The loss-making company was rescued late in 2009 in a debt restructuring deal with several major Italian banks, including Intesa Sanpaolo and UniCredit.
Last month, Risanamento received a non-binding letter of intent from Idea Fimit to develop Santa Giulia and a proposal of industrial cooperation from Hines Italia.
The proposal from Idea Fimit foresees the creation of a fund with 60-80 million euros of fresh capital, into which the Santa Giulia assets, worth 650-700 million euros, would also be transferred, the sources said.
Shares in Risanamento, which have risen 70 percent over the last twelve months, ended 0.9 percent higher at 0.164 euros on Wednesday. (Writing By Danilo Masoni; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)