Italy aims to boost banking competition with Monte dei Paschi sale

<html xmlns=""><head><title>UPDATE 1-Italy aims to boost banking competition with Monte dei Paschi sale</title></head><body>

Adds Giorgetti's remarks, details

By Giuseppe Fonte

ROME, May 26 (Reuters) -Italy intends to boost competition among banks with the privatisation of bailed-out lender Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS) BMPS.MI, Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti said on Friday, adding this would help the economy.

Commitments agreed with European Union authorities at the time of MPS's 5.4 billion euro ($5.9 billion) bailout in 2017 bind Rome to eventually selling its 64% stake in the bank.

The right-wing administration of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni pumped another 1.6 billion euros into the Tuscan bank in November, when the state covered its portion of a 2.5 billion euro capital increase.

"MPS may become a sought-after prey instead of something to steer clear of. It can also become the pivot to shape the Italian banking sector's structure," Giorgetti said at an event organised by Il Sole 24 ore newspaper.

"The steps we'll take will be aimed at boosting competition in the bank credit sector in the interest of our economic system."

After the government failed in 2021 to sell MPS to rival UniCredit CRDI.MI, bankers expect Rome will seek another merger to cut its stake.

Giorgetti's remarks chime with those of Meloni, who has said in recent months that MPS's privatisation should foster the creation of several large banking groups in the country.

This raises the prospects of a potential deal with Banco BPM BAMI.MI or BPER Banca EMII.MI, Italy's third and fourth largest banks respectively, although both have said in the past they are not interested in MPS.

Italy's banking industry is dominated by Intesa Sanpaolo ISP.MI and UniCredit, which each have more than four times the assets of Banco BPM and together account for roughly half the sector's total.

Giorgetti said on Friday the Treasury could follow a similar path with the sale of MPS as it did with airline ITA Airways, the successor of loss-making Alitalia.

Germany's Lufthansa LHAG.DE will take a 41% stake in ITA Airways via a 325 million euro capital increase, as a first step of a plan agreed with the Treasury to privatise the carrier.

Sources told Reuters this month the Treasury was open to cutting its stake in MPS through one or more share sales on the market, if financially advantageous and as long as any significant new investor would manage the holding in line with Italy's national interest.

($1 = 0.9084 euros)

Editing by Valentina Za and Mark Potter


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