MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian bank VTB's (VTBR.MM) chief executive Andrei Kostin would be "very surprised" if Italy's biggest insurer Assicurazioni Generali (GASI.MI) sells its minority stake in VTB to raise cash, he said late on Friday.
Last week, Mario Greco was picked to lead Generali, and is expected to make plans for gathering the estimated 2.5-3 billion euros needed to buy the remaining 49 percent of a venture Generali has with PPF, which is controlled by Czech businessman Petr Kellner.
"I would be very surprised (if Generali sells 1 percent stake in VTB) because as far as I know Generali holds Italy's government bonds worth 50 billion euros in its portfolio alone," Kostin told reporters.
Generali, weakened by its 46 billion euro ($57.35 billion)exposure to Italian government bonds and write-offs on some of its equities investments, bought a 1 percent stake in VTB last year, worth around $300 million at the time of purchase and criticized by some investors.
"It's even laughable to say that $300 million plays any role in Generali's portfolio," Kostin said.
Generali bought a stake in Russia's second biggest lender VTB during its secondary share offering last year, when the state-controlled lender was selling a 10 percent stake as a part of Russia's privatization drive at 9.15 kopecks per share.
On Saturday, VTB shares were trading at 5.5 kopecks, almost 40 percent down from the last year's flotation level, putting Generali's stake value at around $180 million. ($1 = 0.8021 euros)
Reporting by Katya Golubkova; Editing by Daniel Magnowski