Italy plans to sell €2 billion Eni stake to reduce debt

Rome Italy’s government is planning the sale of up to 4% of Eni SpA after the oil company completes a buy-back plan, a deal which would allow Rome to reduce its mammoth debt.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s administration aims to gain about €2 billion ($2.2 billion) from the sale of the stake, as part of its privatization push, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named on a confidential issue. The proposals are still being worked out and could change.

The government aims to sell around €20 billion ($21.8 billion) in state-held stakes by 2026.

Eni shares reversed earlier gains and fell as much as 1.2% to €14.47 in Milan trading.

The Finance Ministry declined to comment. The Italian Treasury currently owns a 4.7% stake in Eni, while state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti holds 27.7%.

Finance Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti has repeatedly stated that asset sales are on the cards. He said Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos that he’d discussed stake sales with foreign funds during the conference. He did not specify which companies. There is no indication so far on potential buyers.

Italy faces low growth and persistently high interest rates this year which are hindering its efforts to cut a debt load that stands at around 140% of output. Planned stake sales would help reduce that debt and leave the government some breathing room to redirect other funds toward cutting taxes and keeping electoral promises.

Other companies that may see part of the state’s holdings put on sale include Poste Italiane SpA and railroad company Ferrovie dello Stato SpA, the people said.

Meanwhile, the government is pushing ahead with the sale of a 25% stake in lender Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA, and of 41% of ITA Airways to Deutsche Lufthansa AG, which is at an advanced stage and under review by European Union competition authorities.