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Monte Paschi chairman and CEO expected to stay on as board meets

Banca Monte Paschi di Siena CEO Fabrizio Viola speaks during a news conference in downtown Milan January 28, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofa
Banca Monte Paschi di Siena CEO Fabrizio Viola speaks during a news conference in downtown Milan January 28, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofa

By Silvia Aloisi

MILAN (Reuters) - Monte dei Paschi di Siena's chairman and CEO are not expected to go through with a threat to quit on Tuesday when the bank's board meets for the first time since its largest shareholder forced the delay of a vital share issue.

On the agenda is the future of Chairman Alessandro Profumo and Chief Executive Fabrizio Viola, who had both threatened to resign last month after their proposal for a share sale in January was voted down.

The two are among Italy's most respected bankers and their departure in the middle of the bank's turnaround plan would have dealt a serious blow to Monte dei Paschi's hopes to pull off the rights issue, whose size is bigger than its 2.1 billion euro market value.

Last month, shareholders voted to put off until mid-May at the earliest the 3-billion euro ($4 billion) share sale which Italy's third largest bank needs to pay back state aid and avert nationalization.

The success of the capital increase, which bankers now expect to be launched in June, is a key condition set by the European Commission for approving the 4.1 billion euros government bailout that Monte dei Paschi received last year.

Italy's handling of Monte dei Paschi's problems is regarded as a test of the country's ability to deal with its weaker banks in the run-up to a health check-up of the sector by the European Central Bank.

Bankers close to the matter have told Reuters Profumo and Viola were likely to stay on, and union sources who held talks with Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni on Monday said he did not expect them to leave.

Italian newspapers said that Saccomanni, worried about the fate of the Tuscan bank, had asked both managers to remain in their jobs to complete its restructuring.

If they do stay, one of the first tasks for Profumo and Viola will be to renegotiate a preliminary accord with a consortium of banks that had agreed to underwrite the capital increase if it was launched by end-January.

They will also watch closely negotiations between the bank's largest shareholder, a not-for-profit foundation with close ties to local politicians, and potential buyers.

The foundation, whose 33.5 percent stake in the bank is big enough to veto any unwanted decision, forced the capital increase postponement. The foundation wanted a delay to give it more time to sell down its holding to pay back 340 million euros in debts.

According to three bankers familiar with the issue, the foundation is in talks with other banking foundations and private equity and hedge funds, including Blackstone and possibly Elliott Management Corp.

The foundation declined to comment. Monte dei Paschi declined to comment.

(Editing by Jane Merriman)

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