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Itau Unibanco sees overseas expansion in time

October 4th, 2009

itau-unibanco1Latin America’s biggest bank by assets, said it plans to build up overseas once it completes its merger, but that will take at least a year and it’s not tempted by distressed assets.

Itau Unibanco was formed by last year’s takeover of Unibanco by Itau and now ranks as one of the world’s top 15 banks by market value. It said at the time of that deal it hoped to compete with big rivals on the international stage in time.

“When we announced the deal we also said we had international aspirations. That’s true, but at this moment we are working to fully complete the integration, which will probably take at least one more year,” Chief Executive Roberto Setubal told Reuters.

“After that everything is possible,” he said, adding that the focus would likely be on Latin America.

“We are not looking for distressed assets. If we bought something out of Brazil it has to be a good bank; we don’t want to buy a bank in bad shape, we’d prefer to pay a higher price and buy a sound bank,” Setubal said on the sidelines of a meeting of the Institute of International Finance here.

“But we still have very high growth potential in Brazil, so that’s something we have to take into consideration.”

Brazil has weathered the financial crisis better than most countries and its economy is in good shape due to previous fiscal and monetary reform, Setubal said. He predicted the economy would grow by between 4.5 percent and 5 percent next year, which was sustainable if the world economy holds steady.

(Reporting by Steve Slater; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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