Italy puts on hold sales of stakes in ENI, ENAV -sources

ROME, Dec 11 (Reuters) - Italy has suspended a plan to sell stakes in two businesses it controls to holding company Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) after European authorities questioned whether it should be shifting assets to a state-controlled entity, sources said on Monday.

Last month, the Treasury started the process of offloading shares in air traffic controller ENAV and energy group ENI as part of a programme of privatisations intended to cut the euro zone's second-highest public debt proportionate to output.

But European statistics agency Eurostat has raised doubts about such a transaction, Italian government sources said, because CDP is publicly owned, although its assets are not considered part of the public accounts.

Eurostat and the Treasury have been in contact on the matter informally, and the Bank of Italy has produced a written opinion suggesting the regulator may not accept that the deal cleans up public finances, the sources said.

More worryingly for Rome, Eurostat could decide to count all of CDP's liabilities when calculating Italy's public debt, which already stands at 131.6 percent of gross domestic product.

Under the privatisation plan, the Treasury had hoped to raise up to 3 billion euros ($3.54 billion) by selling 50.37 percent of ENAV and most of its 4.34 percent holding in ENI.

Eurostat has already expressed concern about the established practice whereby the Treasury sells state assets to CDP, in which it holds 83 percent.

Since 2012, CDP has bought thousands of millions of euros worth of state-owned real estate, foreign investment insurance firm Sace, holding company Fintecna and service provider Simest.

($1 = 0.8478 euros) (Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte and Massimiliano Di Giorgio; Additional reporting by Stefano Bernabei and Francesco Guarascio; Writing by Isla Binnie; Editing by Catherine Evans)