Part of Belgium's share in BNP Paribas will be sold for more than $2 billion.

Belgian state participation agency SFPI announced on Tuesday that the country is getting ready to sell a third of its 7.8% equity share in BNP Paribas, the largest bank in the eurozone.

BNP Paribas is a French international banking group, founded in 2000 from the merger between Banque

PARIS, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Belgium is preparing the sale of a third of its 7.8% equity stake in BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA), the euro-zone's biggest bank, the Belgian state participation agency SFPI said on Tuesday.

Belgium became a shareholder of France's BNP Paribas in 2008, following the bailout of the country's financial group Fortis, which was taken over by the French lender as part of a state-backed rescue.

As of Tuesday, the Belgian state was BNP Paribas' number one investor, ahead of asset managers Amundi (AMUN.PA) and BlackRock , with 7% and 6% of the group's shares respectively, Refinitiv data showed.

The Belgian state participation agency will dispose of around 2.7% in the French bank, it said in a statement, reducing Belgium's stake in the French lender to about 5.1%.

Bookrunners for the deal told investors shortly before the deadline to submit stock orders that the deal was likely to price 64.96 euros per share, according to messages seen by Reuters, implying a 1.8% discount to BNP Paribas' closing price. Books were due to close at 2000 CET (1900 GMT).

Based on the bank's market capitalisation, the value of the deal would be over $2 billion.

Belgium bought Fortis in 2008 for 9.4 billion euros ($9.95 billion) and sold 75 percent to BNP Paribas in exchange for shares.

Fortis ran into trouble after paying a top-of-the-market 24 billion euros to buy the Dutch operations of ABN AMRO just before the credit crunch and the global financial crisis.

Lazard is advising Belgium on the move, while BNP Paribas Fortis, BofA Securities and Goldman Sachs International are acting as joint bookrunners, SFPI said.

BNP Paribas declined to comment.


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