SANTIAGO, April 7 U.S. investment firm Cartica Management LLC has asked Chile's SVS securities regulator to review a planned merger of Chilean bank CorpBanca SA with Brazil's Itaú Unibanco Holding Financeira SA.
Cartica, based in Washington, D.C., oversees about $2 billion in assets and owns about 3.2 percent of CorpBanca's common shares through separate investment vehicles.
Cartica has come out strongly against the tie-up, arguing it undervalued CorpBanca's shares and gave special benefits to controlling shareholder Álvaro Saieh, a Chilean billionaire, and his company CorpGroup.
In a filing with the SVS dated April 1, which became public on Monday, Cartica argued plans for CorpBanca parent company CorpGroup to sell 1.53 percent of its total stock in the Chilean bank to Itaú Unibanco "is not harmless, rather it has an objective."
"Why is it necessary for CorpGroup to sell 1.53 percent of CorpBanca? The only reason is to avoid a takeover bid," Cartica said.
That in turn limits minority shareholders' scope of action and potentially hurts them, according to Cartica.
The firm said the transaction was designed to allow the banks to avoid having to share the premium likely to be reaped from the potential tie-up with all shareholders.
"Your legal interpretation of this matter will determine whether the planned operation should be subject to a public takeover bid," Cartica told the regulator.
Last week, Cartica filed a lawsuit in New York against CorpBanca, Saieh, and his investment holding company over the plans to merge with Itaú Unibanco.
If the merger went through, the combined company would not only give Itaú an important foothold in retail banking in Chile, but also provide a way to grow in Colombia, South America's fastest-growing economy last year.
Itaú is contending with slowing economic growth and rising household debt in Brazil, where it trails state-run lender Banco do Brasil SA. (Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Alexandra Ulmer)