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UniCredit posts stunning Q4 loss of $21 billion

MILAN (AP) -- UniCredit, Italy's largest bank, has posted a record 15 billion-euro ($21 billion) loss in the fourth quarter, as it moved to clean up its balance sheet with write-downs and bad loan provisions.

The loss, announced Tuesday, compares with a loss of 553 million in the fourth quarter a year earlier. It exceeded the bank's previous record loss of 10.6 billion euros posted for the third quarter of 2011.

Markets reacted favorably to the bank's balance sheet cleanup, which included setting aside another 7.2 billion against bad loans. Shares rose 7 percent to 6.48 euros.

UniCredit also announced a strategic plan through 2018 that foresees a net profit of 2 billion euros this year, tripling to 6.6 billion in 2018. It also plans to list its on-line bank Fineco.