Credit Agricole in Cheuvreux sale talks: sources

PARIS/ZURICH Fri Jun 29, 2012 12:31pm EDT

A man walks past the entrance of the Credit Agricole Bank building in Geneva August 5, 2008. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

A man walks past the entrance of the Credit Agricole Bank building in Geneva August 5, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Denis Balibouse

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PARIS/ZURICH (Reuters) - French bank Credit Agricole (CAGR.PA) is in talks to sell its loss-making Cheuvreux brokerage arm to financial services group Kepler Capital Markets, sources familiar with the matter said on Friday.

Kepler is one of two or three potential buyers for the unit, which has been in search of a partner since China's Citic Securities dropped plans to buy a 20 percent stake in it, a source close to Cheuvreux told Reuters.

"There are talks underway on Cheuvreux," the source said, adding that a preliminary agreement could be reached by mid-July. "A sale is one of the possible outcomes. Today there are still two or three possible partners including Kepler."

A second source close to the matter also said Kepler was in talks to acquire Cheuvreux. Neither source indicated a value for the deal.

Credit Agricole declined to comment. Kepler officials could not immediately be reached.

Kepler is headed by veteran French banker Laurent Quirin, who told Reuters earlier this year that the bank was broadening its reach beyond equity brokerage and poaching top talent from banks just as they were pulling back.

The firm narrowly escaped collapse in 2008 when the fall of its Icelandic parent Landsbanki pushed Quirin to lead a management buyout of the broker he founded a decade earlier.

Credit Agricole, which is already cutting more than 2,000 jobs in its investment bank, had been looking for a partner for Cheuvreux since Citic set its sights on buying all of Asia-based sister brokerage CLSA.

The bank, whose shares in early May hit their lowest point since the bank's December 2001 IPO, rallied on Friday along with other European lenders, gaining 8.7 percent. Credit Agricole shares are up 20 percent this month, helped by the victory of pro-bailout parties in Greece where the bank has a major unit.

(Writing by Christian Plumb; Editing by James Regan)

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