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Madrid (AFP) - Spain launched Friday the privatisation of rescued lender Bankia with the sale of a 7.5-percent stake, two years after the bank dragged the Spanish financial sector to the brink of disaster.

Private investors paid 1.3 billion euros ($1.8 billion) for the stake, Bankia's parent group BFA said in a statement, adding that it made a 301-million-euro net consolidated profit from the sale.

Bankia, which was nationalised in 2012 to save it from collapse, has said it expects to be privatised in stages over the next two-to-three years.

The sale of the stake lowered the Spanish state's holding in Bankia to about 61 percent.

Bankia became the symbol of Spain's financial crisis when it lost more than 19 billion euros in 2012 and pushed the government to ask its eurozone partners for 41 billion euros in rescue loans to shore up the entire banking system.

Under the terms of the European Union's 2012 bailout, the Spanish government has until 2017 to sell its stake in Bankia.

Bankia this month reported a net profit of 509 million euros for 2013 and announced it had wrapped up a painful restructuring -- shutting more than 1,000 branches and shedding thousands of staff -- two years early.

The bank, which was born in 2010 from the merger of seven troubled savings banks, was hit hard by the sliding value of assets it had accumulated during Spain's 10-year property bubble, which burst in 2008.

After listing on the Madrid stock exchange with great fanfare in July 2011, Bankia had to be nationalised less than a year later, in May 2012, to save it from collapse as bad loans and losses spiralled.

The Bankia share sale was organised for Spain's state-backed Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring by investment banks Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley and UBS.

Shares in the lender fell by four percent to 1.51 euros as trading on the Madrid stock exchange resumed after a brief suspension.