Scotiabank says stake sales in Latin America operations possible

TORONTO Tue Sep 11, 2012 10:05pm EDT

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TORONTO (Reuters) - Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) may sell minority stakes in some Latin American operations to shore up its capital levels or fund an acquisition, the bank's chief risk officer said on Tuesday, but officials stressed there were no immediate plans to sell a stake in Mexico.

Widely known as Scotiabank, Canada's No.3 lender and its Canadian rivals must meet strict new Basel III capital requirements. The bank has been lagging its rivals in building up capital, but says it is currently in a position to meet the standards that came into effect last year.

Speaking at the Barclays Financial Services Conference in New York, Rob Pitfield also said the bank, with operations in Asia and in Latin American countries like Mexico and Chile, was not concerned about delays in closing its purchase of a 20 percent stake in China' Bank of Guangzhou, a deal that has been ongoing since last year.

Earlier this year, the bank sold the building that houses its corporate headquarters in Toronto for C$1.3 billion ($1.34 billion) in a move that strengthened its capital position.

Pitfield said certain minority stakes in other operations were also under consideration for selling.

Pitfield said such sales could be similar to moves made by Spain's Banco Santander SA (SAN.MC), which has sold or plans to sell minority stakes in some of its business units.

A spokeswoman for Scotiabank in Mexico told Reuters later that the bank had "no immediate plans to pursue this kind of transaction" there.

Scotiabank is hardly looking to downsize, though, as two weeks ago it agreed to buy ING Groep's (ING.AS) Canadian online bank for C$3.1 billion.

On the C$719 million Guangzhou stake purchase, which Scotiabank first announced a year ago, Pitfield said the bank was prepared to take a slow approach to get the deal done.

"China moves at its own pace and it can be slow and it can be infuriating and I think the Chinese themselves are trying to figure out how they want to balance foreign acquisitions versus their own organic growth funded by their own country," he said.

"I think it's natural to a degree that it goes slow. For us we're comfortable with that. We'll do the deal when it comes up."

($1 = 0.9726 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting By Cameron French and Tomas Sarmiento; Editing by Tim Dobbyn and Matt Driskill)

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