Belgium looks to cut debt with BNP stake part sale

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Belgium looks to cut debt with BNP stake part sale

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Belgium is reportedly considering selling part of its 10.3 percent holding in French bank BNP Paribas.

The government of Prime Minister Elio di Rupo has to raise money to cut its debt below 100 percent of annual economic output, as agreed with the European Commission.

The country’s stake in France’s biggest bank is worth around 6.3 billion-euros.

It is a legacy of the bailout of Belgian financial group Fortis, which was taken over by BNP as part of a state-backed rescue.

If it sold the shares now it would suffer a loss as they are trading at around 50 euros, below the 68 euro purchase price.

That is despite a rebound in European bank stocks, in which BNP Paribas’s shares have risen almost threefold from their 2011 lows.

“At current market levels the loss for the Belgian state would be acceptable … It is plausible that they are really looking for a way to sell this stake,” said Yohan Salleron, fund manager at Mandarine Gestion, which owns BNP shares.

“A logical outcome would be for BNP to buy back the shares … That would be the best thing for the shareholders.”

The Belgian prime minister’s office declined to comment and BNP Paribas declined to comment.

The reports were in Belgian business dailies De Tijd and L’Echo.