MILAN, Feb 6 (Reuters) - A consortium led by U.S. asset manager Fortress Investment Group will pay about 500 million euros ($566 million) for UniCredit's non-performing loans manager and a chunk of bad debt, two sources close to the matter said on Friday.
The sale by Italy's biggest bank by assets could be announced as early as next week, one of the sources said, and will be the country's largest transaction in distressed debt for several years after other banks shelved plans to sell their bad debt last year.
UniCredit Credit Management Bank (UCCMB) was offered for sale at the beginning of last year as UniCredit sought to strengthen its balance sheet and free funds for new lending.
The consortium comprising Fortress and Italian real estate company Prelios entered exclusive talks in October and had been expected to sign a deal by the end of 2014.
UniCredit declined to comment on Friday.
UCCMB manages about 40 billion euros of non-performing loans that belong to UniCredit, other banks and several other entities.
After the sale, UCCMB will continue to manage smaller bad loans on UniCredit's books, while credit with its largest clients will be managed by the lender directly.
Non-performing loans at Italian banks were 181 billion euros in November, but lenders have found them hard to shed because prices offered in many cases have fallen short of the book value of the assets, advisers involved in some transactions have said.
The problem has also prompted the Italian government to consider setting up a state-backed bad bank to help lenders clean up their books and make space for new lending to companies and households. ($1 = 0.8827 euros) (Additional reporting by Paola Arosio; Editing by David Goodman)