Chile's CorpBanca confirms merger talks

SANTIAGO Fri Nov 29, 2013 4:59pm EST

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SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chilean bank CorpBanca COB.SN confirmed on Friday that it is studying a possible merger with a local or foreign bank, a deal that could reportedly be worth around $5 billion.

"CorpBanca is analyzing, with the assistance of international investment banks, a possible transaction that involves the bank in a business tie-up with national or foreign operators," the Santiago-listed bank said in a statement to the securities regulator on Friday after the market close.

Local online news site El Mostrador reported on Thursday that CorpBanca was in talks with Brazilian bank Itau Unibanco (ITUB4.SA), Chile's BCI BCI.SN, Canada's Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank) (BNS.TO) and Spain's BBVA (BBVA.MC).

The report cited documents it had seen prepared by Merrill Lynch, which it said was advising on the deal alongside Goldman Sachs.

According to the documents, the deal would be structured as a share swap. Itau's offer is worth just over $5 billion, Scotiabank's includes $1 billion cash and BBVA's includes between $300 million and $400 million cash, the report said.

BBVA and BCI declined to comment on the report on Thursday. A Scotiabank spokeswoman said the bank did not comment on speculation as a matter of policy. Itau could not immediately be reached for comment.

CorpBanca, which has banking operations in Chile and Colombia, said on Friday that no decision or agreement had yet been made, nor had the structure of any deal been decided.

Billionaire Alvaro Saieh, who controls CorpBanca via the wider financial services group CorpGroup, has been seeking to raise cash since an accounting error led his retail firm SMU to breach debt covenants earlier this year.

CorpBanca's shares, which rose over 8 percent on Thursday, closed up 3.8 percent at 6,850 pesos on Friday, valuing the firm at around 2.33 trillion Chilean pesos ($4.39 billion).

($1 = 531.2200 Chilean pesos)

(Reporting by Anthony Esposito and Rosalba O'Brien; Additional reporting by Cameron French in Toronto and Sonya Dowsett in Madrid; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Tim Dobbyn)

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