Bailout looms in Monte dei Paschi’s funding scramble

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Troubled Italian lender Monte dei Paschi di Siena edged closer to a state bailout on Thursday as its last-ditch plan to raise billions of euros risked falling short.

BMPS, the world’s oldest bank and Italy’s third-biggest, launched a bid to sell fresh shares this week under plans to raise five billion euros to shore up its capital base.

The result of the share offer is expected by Friday but the bank acknowledged late Wednesday that it had failed to attract an anchor investor after pinning its hopes on a big Qatari take-up.

A separate debt-for-equity swap offer, which is also part of the plan to replenish its coffers, reaped just over two billion euros, the bank said.

The plan additionally entails selling off 27.6 billion euros in bad loans.

The European Central Bank has given the bank until December 31 to fund its recovery or risk being wound down.

The Italian government has, however, said it stands ready to step in if necessary. The bank has just four months liquidity left.

BMPS is at the centre of a crisis in Italy’s banking sector — made up of some 700 banks — which is buckling under the weight of bad loans estimated to total 360 billion euros.

Shares in the bank have fallen over 80 percent in the past year and it achieved the worst results in a July stress test by the European Banking Authority.

On Wednesday, the stock rose by 1.7 percent amid hopes that the crisis will end with some kind of viable solution, including a possible rescue by the government.

The Italian parliament approved on Wednesday a 20-billion-euro bailout package that would aim to stem the woes of the ailing banking sector.

“This is like forcing every family to pay 833 euros to save banks in trouble,” quipped Codacons, a consumer rights group.

Analysts say the “weak appetite” among private investors so far towards bolstering the bank’s coffers by five billion euros raises the likelihood of a state injection.

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