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MILAN, Oct 3 (Reuters) - UBI Banca is ready to buy three of four small banks Italy rescued from bankruptcy in November but would only pay a "symbolic price" and raise just half the capital demanded by the European Central Bank, sources close to the matter said.
Banca Marche, Popolare Etruria, CariFerrara and CariChieti have turned into the latest banking headache for Italy as it is struggling to find buyers for them after rejecting bids from private equity funds over the summer.
The fate of the four lenders, whose 3.5 billion euro ($3.93 billion) rescue was funded by other healthy banks that now hope to recoup at least part of that money with the sale, will be discussed later on Monday at a meeting at the Treasury.
The four banks are loss making and, according to sources, need to write down their problem loans further, despite spinning off the worst portion of the loan book in the rescue.
"UBI does not want to take on the losses stemming from the soured loans. Today's meeting will try to find a collective answer to the problem," one of the sources said.
A second source said UBI wanted the banks to first shed their problem loans and be allowed to count the resulting losses as tax assets.
To strengthen its capital UBI is ready to raise 200-300 million euros in a share sale but the ECB has asked for a 600 million euro capital increase in order to clear the acquisition, a third source said.
The ECB declined to comment. ($1 = 0.8902 euros) (Reporting by Paola Arosio and Andrea Mandala, additional reporting by Stefano Bernabei, editing by Valentina Za and Agnieszka Flak)