MILAN (Reuters) - The board of UniCredit , Italy's largest bank by assets, has approved a plan to set up a pool of restructured loans with domestic rival Intesa Sanpaolo and U.S. private equity firm KKR , UniCredit's chief executive said on Thursday.
The banks hope that combining problem loans with the benefit of outside expertise and capital will make the debt easier to recover or to sell to third parties.
Under the plan UniCredit and Intesa will pool up to 2 billion euros worth of soured loans in a special vehicle. This could be expanded in the future, Federico Ghizzoni told reporters.
"There is no maximum amount," he said, adding that the project should start soon, following more than a year of talks.
"We are not talking months, it's almost ready," he said.
Italian lenders had bad debts worth around 330 billion euros (248 billion pounds) at the end of June.
But Ghizzoni said the first quarter for his bank had gone well, with it performing "above expectations" in Russia.
"The liquidity (position) in Russia is very positive, the business is growing and the recovery of the rouble is certainly helping," he said.
The impact of the rouble devaluation on the bank's Common Equity Tier 1 capital adequacy ratio, which fell to 10 percent at the end of December from 10.4 percent three months earlier, had totalled 950 million euros in the fourth quarter of last year, UniCredit said when it released full-year results in February.
Ghizzoni said its asset under management division and its Italian operation had also performed well in the first quarter, without elaborating.
Ghizzoni also said he had met the chief of the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) on Thursday, who confirmed his interest in remaining a long-term investor in the bank despite the turmoil in the north African country.
Together, the LIA and the central bank of Libya have between 4 and 5 percent in the lender, he said.
(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi and Gianluca Semeraro; Editing by Greg Mahlich)