EXCLUSIVE Mexican entrepreneur says hiring advisers for Citibanamex bid

A Citibanamex logo is pictured in Mexico City, Mexico February 22, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo

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MEXICO CITY, Feb 3 (Reuters) – A Mexican entrepreneur close to President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told Reuters he had started hiring financial advisers and law firms to prepare a bid for Citibanamex, Mexico’s banking arm of Citigroup (CN).

Javier Garza, founder of a business group that backs Lopez Obrador’s leftist administration, also said in a Zoom interview that he gets about four calls a day from potential investors.

These include individuals, companies, funds and small banks, he said, adding that he was talking to advisers and law firms in the United States and Mexico about a offer on Citibanamex.

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The 73-year-old entrepreneur declined to identify any of the potential investors or specify which advisers he was talking to during the Tuesday evening interview, saying it was too early to divulge sensitive information.

Garza said he wanted to return the lender to Mexican hands, mirroring statements by Lopez Obrador that the country’s third-largest consumer bank should be “Mexicanized”. Citibanamex has also attracted interest from Spain’s Santander (SAN.MC), Mexico’s Grupo Financiero Banorte (GFNORTEO.MX) and others.

Garza criticized both potential offers.

“The Spaniards didn’t treat us very well and it looks like they are embarking on a second conquest,” he said of Santander.

As for Banorte, he said: “We don’t want a concentration that leads to a financial oligopoly.”

Analysts said Mexico’s biggest bank, the local arm of Spain’s BBVA (BBVA.MC), would likely face antitrust issues when buying Citibanamex, but Banorte is unlikely to do so.

Garza, owner of unlisted construction and infrastructure company Grupo Gentor, said he would have no trouble raising the estimated $4-8 billion price tag for the bank as part of a consortium with other local investors.

“I talk to those who approach me about their interests, how much they’re willing to invest, what returns they expect,” he said, adding that an anonymous fund offered earlier this week. to inject $700 million into an offer.

Garza said he was also open to the Mexican government taking a partial stake if it wanted to and had preliminary talks with Lopez Obrador about the bank’s cultural assets, which the latter has publicly stated. that they had to be protected as part of any agreement.

“I met the president and his team. We agreed that assets such as Banamex’s cultural heritage could be exhibited in a museum,” he said.

The bank, based in an 18th-century Baroque building in central Mexico City, oversees several other historic properties and also has an extensive art collection.

“We want to create a Mexican museum where the works are available to the country,” Garza said.

Mexican Interior Minister Adan Augusto Lopez said the day after Citigroup announced the proposed sale that the government had no interest in acquiring the bank itself.

As for Banamex’s business model, it would aim to extend banking services to a wider range of the population, of which only around 40% have bank accounts, one of the lowest levels among emerging markets.

“Lending in Mexico is very exclusive and expensive, and it shouldn’t be that way,” he said. “We need to offer better rates while ensuring that the bank makes a profit for its investors.”

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Report By Valentine Hilaire; Editing by Christian Plumb and Alistair Bell

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