CorpBanca close to sale of 50.1 percent stake: report

SANTIAGO Thu Dec 19, 2013 9:48am EST

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chilean bank CorpBanca COB.SN, which has been in takeover talks in recent weeks, is close to selling a 50.1 percent stake that may be worth as much as $6 billion, according to newspaper reports on Thursday.

CorpBanca, controlled by Chilean billionaire Alvaro Saieh, has been talking to Spain's Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA.MC) and Brazil's Itau Unibanco Holding SA (ITUB4.SA) about a deal.

The bank, Chile's oldest and fifth-largest, has said it would only accept a bid that allows Saieh to retain some control.

Chile's El Mercurio newspaper, citing sources close to the sale process, said that in the sale of a 50.1 percent stake, Saieh would retain control via the presidency of the new locally merged business.

It said the deal may be worth between $5 billion and $6 billion and will close in the next 10 days.

Both Itau and BBVA are still in the running, it said.

The head of Itau's investment banking unit previously said the company had no interest in a minority stake.

In response to the media reports, CorpBanca said in a statement that negotiations were continuing and that no deal had yet been reached.

BBVA in Chile declined to comment. Itau could not immediately be reached for comment.

The local securities regulator suspended CorpBanca's shares on Thursday after they rose sharply at the open. When trading was suspended, the shares were up 14.6 percent at 7,850 Chilean pesos ($14.85), valuing the company at about 2.67 trillion Chilean pesos ($5.05 billion).

($1 = 528.6000 Chilean pesos)

(Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien, Felipe Iturrieta and Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and John Wallace)

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