UPDATE 1-Banco de Chile aims to grow loan portfolio over 9 pct in 2013

Thu Mar 21, 2013 3:01pm EDT

* Banco de Chile looking to issue debt in Asia this year

* Bank is Chile's second largest in terms of assets

By Anthony Esposito

SANTIAGO, March 21 (Reuters) - Banco de Chile plans to expand its loan portfolio by just over 9 percent this year, slightly above forecast growth for the whole of the country's banking system, chief executive officer Arturo Tagle said on Thursday.

Chile's second largest bank in terms of assets increased its total loans by 8 percent last year to 18.762 trillion pesos, or $39.202 billion, equivalent to a 19 percent market share.

"There's no shortage of financing sources and so there's interest to lend." Tagle told reporters following a shareholders meeting. "When one bank says no, there are three that will say yes ... credit is available, especially corporate and home loans, though there will likely be more prudence with consumer loans."

Domestic demand and access to credit are booming in Chile, which posted robust 5.6 percent economic growth last year.

Tagle forecast 9 percent loan growth for the banking system as a whole, including private banks and state-owned Banco Estado.

He said Banco de Chile's loan portfolio would grow slightly more than that.

Domestic demand and access to credit are booming in Chile, which posted robust 5.6 percent economic growth last year.

Banco de Chile, controlled by the local Luksic family and Citigroup Inc, will focus on organic growth, but is also open to evaluating other investment opportunities if they arise, the CEO added.

On prospects for foreign debt issues, Tagle said the bank plans to issue debt in Asia this year.

"It's a good time to issue debt, especially long-term debt. There is abundant liquidity," Tagle said.

The bank will boost its annual investment by 28 percent this year to 46.2 billion pesos ($97.7 million), mainly for technology and infrastructure projects.

"The investment will go mainly towards technology ... We need to innovate and move towards mobile banking, hopefully in not too long of a time frame. We want banking that operates through smart phones, which is the global trend," Tagle said.

Banco de Chile earlier posted a 465.851 billion peso ($973.4 million) profit for last year.

Shares in Banco de Chile were trading 0.01 percent lower Thursday afternoon, outperforming the blue-chip IPSA stock index, which was down 0.28 percent.