MILAN The top investor in Italy's third biggest lender, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS.MI), denied on Thursday press reports that it had sold a stake of at least 8 percent in the bank the previous day.
In a statement issued at the behest of market regulator Consob, the foundation said that as of March 5 its stake stood at 31.48 percent and no transaction was carried out on Wednesday.
It added that "it had not entered into any sale or purchase contract regarding its stake in Monte dei Paschi".
Speculation that the foundation sold some of its stake pushed Monte dei Paschi up 20 percent on Wednesday and more than 5 percent higher on Thursday.
The foundation is trying to sell the bulk of its stake before a 3-billion euro capital increase which the bank is due to carry out in June.
(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi, editing by Stephen Jewkes)