August 5, 2012 / 2:50 PM / in 6 years

Brazilian bank Itau eyes bid for RBS's Citizens -paper

* Itau has not yet approached RBS - Sunday Times

* Also eyeing Santander, Societe Generale units - Sunday Times

* Itau, RBS decline to comment

LONDON, Aug 5 (Reuters) - Brazilian bank Itau Unibanco is considering a bid for Citizens, the American unit of British state-controlled lender Royal Bank of Scotland , the Sunday Times reported without citing sources.

Itau, Brazil’s biggest private sector lender with a market value of about $70 billion, is keen to do a deal in the United States to boost its international profile, but has not yet made an approach to RBS, the paper said.

Sao Paulo-based Itau and RBS both declined to comment.

There has been speculation that RBS, 82 percent state-owned after receiving a taxpayer-funded bailout during the 2008 crisis, could sell Citizens and buy back some of the government’s stake with the proceeds.

Citizens has attracted interest from several potential acquirers and could fetch 10 billion pounds ($15.60 billion), according to the Sunday Times.

RBS Chief Executive Stephen Hester on Friday downplayed talk of a sale, describing Citizens as one of the bank’s “core” businesses whose value was rising steadily thanks to improvements in its performance.

“We have always said that Citizens is part of our core plans,” he said during a conference call after the bank published half-year results.

“Citizens is much more valuable to our shareholders today than it was three years ago, and I have every confidence that it will be more valuable again three years from now.”

The Sunday Times said Itau was also mulling bids for U.S. lenders Sovereign Bancorp and Bank West, owned by Spain’s Santander and Societe Generale of France respectively, amid speculation they could be put up for sale as the euro zone crisis drags on.

RBS shares closed at 204.5 pence on Friday, valuing the business at about 13 billion pounds.

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