Italy Likely to Pay Monte Paschi Aid by Deadline, Official Says

Mario Monti’s caretaker government will probably proceed with plans to give Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA a 3.9 billion-euro ($5.1 billion) bailout this week, said Finance Undersecretary Gianfranco Polillo.

According to the decree approved by Monti’s cabinet in December, the payment is set to be completed by March 1. Under the government’s rescue plan, Monte Paschi will sell securities, dubbed “Monti” bonds, to the government with a 9 percent coupon that may rise to as much as 15 percent. The government considered delaying the payment, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

“As far as know, I believe everything will proceed according to the original timetable,” Polillo said in a phone interview today. “If there is a delay by one or two days because of technical reasons, it wouldn’t be a problem,” he said, without elaborating.

Government officials are leaning toward meeting the March 1 deadline on the capital injection, said two people, who asked not to be identified because the preparations are private. A Monte Paschi official said the bank didn’t have a comment on the matter.

Italian elections this week produced a hung parliament, with comedian Beppe Grillo’s anti-austerity movement winning more than 25 percent of the popular vote, compared with the 10.5 percent of the votes received by Monti’s coalition in the lower house. Grillo opposed the current bailout plan, arguing that a parliamentary commission should investigate the bank’s dealings.

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Monte Paschi fell 2.1 percent to 20.84 cents in Milan today, valuing Italy’s third-biggest lender at 2.4 billion euros. The stock is down about 29 percent since Bloomberg News reported on Jan. 17 that the bank used a derivatives deal, dubbed Santorini, to disguise losses before a previous government bailout in 2009.

Monte Paschi, engulfed by investigations of its former managers, said on Feb. 6 it will take a 730 million-euro hit to its assets after reviewing structured deals from 2008 and 2009 that hid losses on earlier derivatives. The bank is seeking state funds to boost capital after failing to meet regulators’ minimum requirements in a rescue that some lawmakers and consumer groups have opposed.

Consumer group Codacons said in a statement today it’s appealing the ruling of an administrative court, which rejected Codacons’ claim to block Monte Paschi’s state aid last week. The Council of State will have a hearing on the appeal in Rome on March 22, Codacons said.

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