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Aug 31, 2017

Scotiabank in talks to buy BBVA's Chilean operations

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BBVA said on Thursday it was looking at the possible sale of its retail bank in Chile after Canada's Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) expressed an interest in buying up to 100 per cent.

On Wednesday, BBVA Chile had a market value of 1.2 billion euros (US$1.4 billion).

Spain's second-biggest lender said it could not say if the negotiations would lead to an agreement or what the terms of an eventual agreement would be.

A spokesman at BBVA said the Spanish bank was not considering exiting Chile altogether, where it also has a consumer finance unit.

Bank of Nova Scotia, or Scotiabank, confirmed in a statement on Thursday that it is in "non-binding, exploratory discussions" with BBVA Spain to acquire BBVA Chile.

"At this time, no formal agreement is in place and there can be no assurance that this process will result in a final agreement," it said.

Scotiabank, which has the biggest foreign presence of any Canadian bank, is focusing its international strategy on the Pacific Alliance, a Latin American trade bloc comprising Mexico, Peru, Chile and Colombia.

The bank said this week its capital strength, which is the strongest of Canada's major banks, gave it "flexibility to grow and invest."

BBVA has a 68 percent stake in BBVA Chile, while 29 per cent belongs to the Chilean family Said and the rest of the shares are in free float.

A weak first-half performance for BBVA in Spain showed margins were still under pressure from record low interest rates and it has been relying on its strong performance in Mexico to boost earnings.

Mexico accounts for around 40 per cent of group profits.

In South America, which accounts for around 15 per cent of group profits, earnings fell 3 per cent to 404 million euros in the first six months of 2017. In Chile it booked a net profit of 96 million euros in the first half.

BBVA's shares were up 1.85 per cent at 7.475 euros at 5:23 a.m. ET, when Spain's blue-chip Ibex index was up nearly 0.7 per cent.

Several brokers, including Alantra Equities and Jefferies, said such a deal could be positive for BBVA, helping to simplify its structure and providing a boost of up to 0.9 percentage points to BBVA's capital adequacy ratio.