April 10, 2014 / 2:41 PM / 4 years ago

REFILE-Spain says reviewing Catalunya Banc privatisation strategy

(corrects day to Thursday in lede paragrph)

MADRID, April 10 (Reuters) - Spain is reviewing its strategy to privatise nationalised lender Catalunya Banc, a spokeswoman for the state’s bank restructuring fund said on Thursday, as it nears new asset sales.

The Spanish authorities, which have already injected 12 billion euros ($16.6 billion) into the failed lender, are likely to try and auction off the bank around the summer, once it has been restructured and downsized.

Like many Spanish rivals, Catalunya Banc was hit by soured property deals. It needed part of a 41.3-billion-euro European aid package and the state has already failed twice to return it to private ownership.

“We’re working on restructuring the deal in order to achieve the highest possible return and make the sale of Catalunya Banc more attractive,” the bank fund’s spokeswoman said.

Shedding the less attractive assets of the bank such as some loan portfolios and branches would put the lender in better shape ahead of the privatisation.

The spokeswoman for the bank fund’s said Catalunya Banc had now decided to put on the block a 7 billion euro portfolio of mortgages for which it has received a lot of interest from foreign funds.

Citing sources close to the deal, Spanish newspaper El Mundo had said on Thursday that the government was ready to extend 1.5 billion euros of public aid to help the sale of the portfolio.

The spokeswoman declined to comment on the report and said the details of the sale were still to be defined. The economy ministry and the Bank of Spain also declined to comment.

The Barcelona-based lender is also trying to sell a 1.5 billion euro portfolio of soured loans and a network of 200 offices outside its core Catalonia region.

Separately, newspapers Expansion and Cinco Dias said U.S. fund Blackstone has agreed to buy Catalunya Banc’s property business for 40 million euros.

Catalunya Banc reported a 532 million euro profit for 2013 - following losses of 11.8 billion euros in 2012 - after it was cleansed of most of its rotten real estate loans and housing, which were transferred to a government-backed “bad bank”.

It had on its books assets worth 63 billion euros at the end of 2013. ($1 = 0.7234 Euros) (Reporting by Carlos Ruano, writing by Julien Toyer, editing by Mark Heinrich)

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