UPDATE 1-Banco de Chile top owner to sell up to around $1 bln in shares

Thu Jan 9, 2014 6:29pm EST

* LQ Inversiones Financieras would remain majority owner

* Banco de Chile shares have soared in past year

SANTIAGO Jan 9 (Reuters) - The majority shareholder of Chilean bank Banco de Chile has launched a process to sell up to 6.9 billion shares, which at current market value are equivalent to roughly $963 million.

Banco de Chile said on Thursday it had accepted the decision, which would reduce LQ Inversiones Financieras' stake to 51 percent from its current 58.4 percent.

It was unclear why LQ, which is owned by the wealthy Chilean Luksic family's Quinenco holding group and Citigroup Inc, has decided to launch the process.

Calls to Quinenco went unanswered.

Banco de Chile, one of the country's biggest banks, has been doing well. It posted a roughly $885 million profit in the January to November 2013 period, according to the local banking regulator.

Shares have jumped roughly 40 percent in the last year, according to Reuters data. They closed 1.13 percent lower on Thursday, before the news was announced, at 74.38 pesos a piece, according to the Santiago stock exchange.

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