MILAN, July 4 Italy's biggest bank UniCredit may consider a partnership for its business that manages 42 billion euros ($54.24 billion) in bad loans following interest from international investors, banking sources said on Thursday.
"Blackstone is interested in the company," said a source familiar with the activity of the U.S. investment firm in Italy.
A banking source said other investors were looking at the business, which has the largest portfolio of assets under management in Italy.
"UniCredit is weighing the possibility to find a partner ... among other options," the second source said.
UniCredit could cut the amount of capital it is required to hold to back the bad loans in the business - called Credit Management Bank - if an investor took a share in it, one analyst said.
Regulators require banks to set aside certain amounts of capital to cover their bad loans.
One of the sources said it was unlikely a deal could be reached by the beginning of August, when quarterly results are due to be published.
UniCredit declined to comment, while Blackstone did not immediately respond to a request to comment.
As of 31 December 2012, Credit Management Bank had a total portfolio of loans worth 45.2 billion euros, according to a report by rating agency Fitch.