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LISBON, March 7 (Reuters) - The sale of Portugal's Novo Banco should be concluded in coming weeks after exclusive negotiations with U.S. private equity firm Lone Star, Finance Minister Mario Centeno said on Tuesday.
Portugal has agreed with European authorities to sell Novo Banco, which was carved out of Banco Espirito Santo after its 2014 collapse, by August.
"The expectation that exists is that this process runs its course in coming weeks," Centeno told journalists when asked if the sale would be concluded on March 17. "This is a natural process which will be concluded in coming weeks."
Newspaper Publico reported on Tuesday that the sale of Novo Banco now only depended on the approval of the European Central Bank and that a final agreement was likely on March 17.
But Centeno said negotiations do not include the ECB alone and that "other actors are also relevant at this point in the process".
The Bank of Portugal started a final round of negotiations with Lone Star last month to flesh out the terms of the potential sale of Novo Banco, which received an injection of 3.9 billion euros in public funds in 2014.
The first attempt to sell failed in 2015 after the state considered bids too low.
Centeno said "the conclusion of this negotiating process is extremely important for the country and its financial system."
The government had previously said Lone Star had set conditions on its bid which could have an impact on public accounts, which the state was seeking to minimise through further talks. (Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; Writing by Axel Bugge; Editing by Catherine Evans)