Italy to sell stakes in 8 firms including energy giant Eni

Italy will sell stakes in eight companies including energy giant Eni in a "first packet of privatisations", Prime Minister Enrico Letta said on Thursday, in a drive to reduce debt.

The state plans to sell up to 3.0 percent of its stake in Eni, worth two billion euros, while keeping at least 30 percent of the company.

The sales are expected to raise some 12 billion euros ($16.1 billion).

Other companies involved in the privatisation drive include shipbuilder Fincantieri, STMicroelectronics and Grandi Stazioni, a member of Italy's railways group, Letta said at a press conference.

The government will cede 60 percent of its stake in export credit agency Sace and Grandi Stazioni, and 40 percent of Fincantieri and air traffic controller Enav.

The sales are "a first move" towards cutting Italy's vast public debt -- which stands at around 133 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) -- "for the first time in five years", Letta said following a cabinet meeting.

The privatisation was key to "convincing the European Commission to provide extra margins of flexibility for 2014" in terms of investments, he said.