(Adds details from statement, valuation)
By Robert-Jan Bartunek
BRUSSELS, May 3 (Reuters) - Belgium will sell a quarter of the stake it holds in French financial group BNP Paribas , but is keen to keep a strategic share in the group, the country’s finance ministry said on Wednesday.
The country, which acquired the stake in 2008 as a result of a bailout of Belgian group Fortis, said it would bring back its stake in BNP Paribas to 7.8 percent from 10.3 percent previously.
On the basis of Wednesday’s closing price, the shares are worth about 2.06 billion euros ($2.25 billion), though the finance ministry said it would know the exact amount at a later stage, without giving more details.
Belgium bought Fortis in 2008 for 9.4 billion euros ($10.26 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.
The Belgian finance ministry called the partial sale the “best of two worlds”.
“I want to stress that only a part of the stake was sold because we continue to value the long term strategic holding in BNP Paribas, given the economic importance of this bank in our country,” Finance Minister Johan van Overtveldt said in a statement.
Lazard and Allen & Overy advised Belgium on the deal. ($1 = 0.9163 euros) (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek, editing by Robin Emmott)