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NEWS

Italy plans to sell up to 13% stake in Poste Italiane – ministry

By Giuseppe Fonte

ROME (Reuters) -Italy plans to sell a stake of up to 13% in postal service group Poste Italiane, its industry ministry told parliament on Tuesday.

The stake sale is part of government plans to raise roughly 20 billion euros ($21.67 billion) through asset sales between 2024 and 2026 to keep in check the euro zone’s second-largest debt pile as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP).

In a written response to a parliamentary question, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, the industry ministry said both the Treasury and state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) plan to cut their stakes in Poste Italiane without going below 51%.

The economy ministry has a 29.3% stake in Poste which is worth almost 4 billion euros at current market prices, while CDP owns an additional 35%.

“The sale will not jeopardize public service delivery and will guarantee jobs of all workers involved,” the ministry added. Both CDP and the Treasury declined to comment.

Poste, which will present its new industrial plan in March, is a financial conglomerate that has expanded beyond its core business into payments, mobile phone services and energy supply, as well as insurance and investment products.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly said Rome would cut its stakes in state-owned companies without compromising public control.

An exception is bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS), which the Treasury pledged to return to private hands at the time of the 2017 bailout agreed with European Union authorities.

Meloni and Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti have also said that the government intends to sell stakes in the state-owned railways Ferrovie dello Stato and energy giant Eni.

Factoring in proceeds from asset sales, Italy’s debt is seen edging down by just 0.6 percentage point between 2023 and 2026, when it is targeted at 139.6% of GDP.

Italy needs to maintain a cautious stance on its strained public finances as the European Union plans to adopt stricter budget rules next year, under the reform of the bloc’s two-decade-old Stability and Growth Pact.

($1 = 0.9228 euros)

(Editing by Giulia Segreti and Susan Fenton)

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