UPDATE 1-Monte Paschi shareholder sells big stake to LatAm investors
(Adds details, Banco Popolare capital increase)
By Silvia Aloisi
MILAN, March 31 (Reuters) - The former controlling shareholder in Monte dei Paschi di Siena has sold a 6.5 percent stake in Italy's third-largest bank to two big Latin American funds, another sign of foreign investors' appetite for Italian lenders.
News of the Monte Paschi foundation's sale to Fintech Advisory and BTG Pactual Europe follows purchases of shares in several Italian lenders by BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, and sent the bank's shares up more than 11 percent on Monday.
The sale came as another Italian bank, Banco Popolare , launched a 1.5 billion euros ($2 billion) cash call, with its shares rising almost 9 percent on reports of buying by foreign investors.
The Monte Paschi foundation has sold around 25 percent of the bailed-out bank in the last two weeks, helped by more positive investor sentiment towards the Italian economy and the prospect of banking takeovers.
Italy is slowly emerging from a deep a two-year recession and the new government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is fuelling expectations that the country may finally tackle long-awaited reforms.
"The Renzi rally continues," analysts at Credit Suisse wrote in a report on Monday. "Italian banks look cheap," they said, adding that "there is significant scope for consolidation ... (which) should lead to material cost synergies and higher margins."