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Belgium raises $2.3 billion from BNP Paribas stake sale

FILE PHOTO: Logo of BNP Paribas on a bank building in Paris

By Mathieu Rosemain and Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro

PARIS (Reuters) - Belgium has sold 2.17 billion euros ($2.31 billion) worth of shares in BNP Paribas, cutting its stake in the French lender built during the financial crisis by about a third.

Belgian state participation agency SFPI said on Wednesday it had successfully placed 33 million shares with investors following an accelerated sale on Tuesday evening.

Investment banks marketed the shares at 64.96 euros apiece, implying a 1.8% discount to BNP Paribas' closing price.

Shares in BNP Paribas were down more than 3% at 1000 GMT following the transaction.

SFPI, which now retains a 5.1% stake in BNP Paribas, said it has been looking to reduce its exposure to the financial services sector, but would continue to support the French bank.

It has agreed not to sell further shares for a period of 90 days.

"Following the transaction, SFPI-FPIM confirms its continued support of BNP Paribas and belief in the long-term strategy of the company," the government agency said.

Belgium became a shareholder of France's BNP Paribas in 2008, following the bailout of the country's financial group Fortis, which was taken over by the French lender as part of a state-backed rescue.

As of Tuesday, the Belgian state was BNP Paribas' number one investor, ahead of asset managers Amundi and BlackRock, with 7% and 6% of the group's shares, respectively, Refinitiv data showed.

Belgium bought Fortis in 2008 for 9.4 billion euros and sold 75% 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.

Lazard advised Belgium on the move, while BNP Paribas Fortis, BofA Securities and Goldman Sachs International acted as joint bookrunners, SFPI said.

BNP Paribas declined to comment.

($1 = 0.9396 euros)

(Reporting by Charlotte Van Campenhout, Tassilo Hummel, Mathieu Rosemain and Pablo Cerqueiro Mayo; Additional reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Toby Chopra, Ed Osmond, Barbara Lewis and Shounak Dasgupta)