March 18, 2019 / 10:10 AM / 6 months ago

Potential bidders for Italy's Carige in talks with the ECB - sources

ROME (Reuters) - Potential bidders for troubled Italian lender Carige are in touch with the European Central Bank ahead of an April 15 deadline to submit possible offers, a source close to the matter said on Monday.

The ECB appointed three temporary administrators on Jan. 2 to run Italy’s 10th-largest bank and asked them to find a buyer to stave off the risk of state intervention.

Under an emergency decree approved in January, Italy’s government can spend up to 1 billion euros by September to buy new Carige shares.

The bank has said it needs to raise 630 million euros (539.4 million pounds) in capital after reporting a 2018 loss of 273 million euros.

The source said there were a handful of investors interested in Carige but declined to name them. Some of the bidders, which are either investment funds or rival banks, are only interested in specific assets, the source said.

However, a second source close to the matter said there were only two bidders and both were private equity funds.

The ECB declined to comment.

Various sources have said that U.S. funds Varde Partners and Apollo Global Management are among potential bidders for Carige, which has 3.5 billion euros in bad loans.

Some of the sources have said BlackRock might also be interested. The Italian press has also mentioned British fund Attestor, although sources have said it is less keen.

Carige declined to comment while the funds were either not available for comment or had no comment.

Back in 2016, Apollo had offered to buy Carige’s bad debt and fill the ensuing capital shortfall by taking a majority stake in the bank. The offer was rejected.

Apollo has bought Carige’s insurance units, whose products are distributed through the bank’s network.

Reporting by Stefano Bernabei and Andrea Mandala, writing by Valentina Za, Editing by Catherine Evans

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