Belgium sells "bad bank" credit portfolio for $8.7 billion

BRUSSELS Sat Apr 27, 2013 4:05pm BST

Belgium's Finance Minister Koen Geens speaks during a news conference after a budgetary control meeting in Brussels March 30, 2013. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Belgium's Finance Minister Koen Geens speaks during a news conference after a budgetary control meeting in Brussels March 30, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium has pared back its public debt with the sale of the structured credit portfolio held by its 'bad bank', Royal Park Investments, to U.S. private equity firm Lone Star and Credit Suisse (CSGN.VX), the finance ministry said on Saturday.

Finance Minister Koen Geens said in March that Belgium needed to find a further 1 billion euros (839.5 million pounds) from asset sales to ensure that national debt did not rise above GDP.

Royal Park Investments (RPI) has sold its asset portfolio through a block sale to Credit Suisse and Lone Star Funds, a specialist in buying distressed debt assets, for 6.7 billion euros ($8.73 billion), an official statement said.

It means the Belgian state, along with Ageas (AGES.BR), the insurance company which emerged from the break-up of Fortis at the height of the financial crisis, will both receive about 1 billion euros.

As of March this year, Ageas and the Belgian state both had about 750 million euros of equity capital in RPI, while French bank BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA) had 200 million euros.

Belgium's budget deficit topped the European Union's limit of 3 percent of output in March when the EU statistics agency Eurostat forced it to include the bail-out of troubled bank Dexia (DEXI.BR) in its budget calculations.

To solve the problem, Belgium made 1.4 billion euros of savings and said it also needed to raise another 1 billion euros from asset sales.

In Saturday's statement, the Belgian state also said it would buy back from Ageas a call option on shares in BNP Paribas so that it could sell its stake in the French bank when it judged fit, without having to worry about the option.

Belgium's 10 percent stake in BNP Paribas is worth about 5 billion euros.

Ageas said it plans to pay a dividend of 1 euro per share following the Lone Star sale.

(Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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