Itaú Unibanco Holding SA, Latin America's largest bank, closed a binding agreement for the sale of its Argentine unit to Banco Macro for 250 million reais (US$50 million).
Once the transaction is completed, Itaú Unibanco will serve its corporate and private clients through its international units, the São Paulo-based bank said in a regulatory filing on Thursday. The deal is expected to have a negative non-recurring impact of about 1.2 billion reais on the Brazilian bank's results.
The deal ends a couple of months of negotiations that took place against the backdrop of a severe economic crisis in Argentina, which is seeing a shrinking economy and annual inflation that recently surpassed 100 per cent.
While Itaú is a giant across Latin America, in Argentina it ranks 18th among banks in terms of assets, while Banco Macro is the fifth largest, according to Argentina's central bank.
The deal marks the end of a long-standing presence in Argentina. Itaú has been operating in the neighbouring country since 1979, where it initially focused on supporting the activities of large companies with business ties to Brazil. In 1998, it made its biggest bet in retail banking when it bought Banco del Buen Ayre for US$225 million and became the twelfth largest bank.
Itaú said it will not completely abandon its operations in Argentina. The bank will apply to the regulatory authorities in Argentina and Brazil to open an office in the country and will continue to serve local and regional corporate clients, as well as private and wealthy individuals.
by Vanessa Dezem, Bloomberg