BARCELONA, Spain (Reuters) - Spain will explore the possibility of selling a further stake in state-owned Bankia <BKIA.MC> later this year, Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said in an interview with Spanish newspaper ABC on Sunday.
“We are exploring selling another package after the summer,” de Guindos said, estimating that stake would be “around 7 percent.”
In June, Bankia, Spain’s fourth largest bank, approved a merger with mid-sized bank BMN, which is also partially state owned.
The merger and possible sale of more of the government's holding are part of efforts to increase the value of both banks following a combined 24 billion euro ($27.98 billion) bailout at the height of the euro zone debt crisis.
The deal is to be confirmed in September at a shareholder meeting. If the merger is approved, it will leave the state with 66.56 percent of the new entity, while Bankia shareholders and BMN shareholders will hold 33.1 and 2.33percent of shares, respectively.
By increasing the proportion of publicly traded shares, Bankia could prove more attractive for institutional investors, de Guindos suggested.
The government sold a stake in Bankia in 2014 and in December passed a law giving until the end of 2019 to privatize the bank to try to recoup money provided under its rescue in 2012.
The minister predicted that the Spanish economy would continue growing this year and comfortably meet a 3 percent GDP growth forecast.
Unemployment, currently at 18.8 percent, will fall below 17 percent by the end of the year, he suggested, and could reach 7 percent by 2022.
(Editing by Jane Merriman)