Chile's CorpBanca close to sale; BBVA, Itau main bidders -sources

SAO PAULO/SANTIAGO Wed Dec 4, 2013 10:36am EST

SAO PAULO/SANTIAGO Dec 4 (Reuters) - Billionaire Alvaro Saieh is close to finalizing a merger deal for Chile's CorpBanca , in which he has a controlling stake, two sources with knowledge of the deal told Reuters, with Spain's Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria and Brazil's Itau Unibanco Holding SA the frontrunners.

CorpBanca said last week that it was studying a possible merger with a local or foreign bank. The deal could be worth about $5 billion, a report said.

The bidders are looking to buy a stake that is big enough to allow for control of the bank, one source said.

Local media reports said that Saieh, who according to Reuters data owns a 55 percent controlling stake in CorpBanca, is keen to remain as co-controller of the merged bank.

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

He is in New York and is looking to close the deal this week or by early next week, one source said.

BBVA, which like CorpBanca has significant operations in Colombia, is edging ahead of Itau in the talks, newspaper Diario Financiero said on Wednesday.

CorpBanca, Itau and BBVA declined to comment.

Shares of CorpBanca, which hit an all-time low in August, have since recovered around 40 percent. They were trading up 1.1 percent at 6,751 pesos on Wednesday, valuing the company at about 2.29 trillion Chilean pesos ($4.29 billion).

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