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Argentina falls into recession; XP gets approval to launch bank

* Argentina fell into a technical recession after the country's GDP contracted 3.5% year over year in the third quarter, according to preliminary figures from national statistics agency INDEC. The drop in the third quarter follows the 4.2% fall in the second quarter.

* XP Investimentos SA gained authorization from Banco Central do Brasil to create its own bank, which is expected to begin operations during the second half of 2019, Folha de S.Paulo reported. After structuring the new entity, XP would still require an operational license from the monetary authority. The bank will be aimed at the brokerage firm's own client, which will have access to loans collateralized by investments.

MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA

* Grupo Financiero Base SA de CV is launching a financial technology investment plan that will see the Mexican banking group invest around $10 million in updating its computer systems and creating new alliances with fintech startups, El Financiero reported.

* Costa Rica's Treasury said it would cancel nearly 500 billion colones in 90-day bills owed to the central bank on Dec. 20, six days before the debt was due to expire, El Financiero reported. Finance Minister Rocío Aguilar said the government had managed to raise $1.5 billion to meet its obligations from different sources including debt swaps and the merger of state-run Banco Crédito Agrícola de Cartago and Banco de Costa Rica.

* Mexican state mortgage lender Instituto del Fondo Nacional de la Vivienda para los Trabajadores will start restructuring some 160,000 credits issued under the Minimum Wage Times modality in 2019 in order to turn them into peso-denominated fixed-rate loans, El Economista reported, citing the entity's new head, Carlos Martínez Velázquez.

BRAZIL

* Banco Santander (Brasil) SA will acquire a 11.5% stake in electronic payment firm Getnet Adquirencia e Serviços para Meios de Pagamento SA from minority shareholders for 1.43 billion reais. The purchase makes the bank a 100% owner of all Getnet shares, as it already holds an 88.5% stake in the firm.

* Brazil's National Monetary Council has set the global annual credit limit that banks can grant to public sector entities in 2019 at 24.5 billion reais, up 500 million reais from this year's limit, Valor Econômico reported.

* BNDES Participações SA - BNDESPAR launched a public tender on Dec. 19 to invest up to 2.2 billion reais in as many as eight FIP investment funds which include four venture capital funds and four private equity funds, Valor Econômico reported.

* Brazil's Prosecutor General Raquel Dodge indicted President Michel Temer for corruption and money laundering, after results from an investigation into graft related to port concessions came to the fore, Reuters reported, citing a statement from the office.

ANDEAN

* Colombian banking industry leaders criticized a decision to increase taxes on the financial sector after Congress passed the government's financing law on Dec. 19, Portafolio reported. Santiago Castro Gómez, president of the Asobancaria industry association, said the 4% sliding-scale surcharge on banks' profits will increase financing costs and hit lending activity.

SOUTHERN CONE

* Spain's Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA confirmed it was considering alternatives to its Chilean vehicle financing business FORUM Servicios Financieros SA, including the partial or total sale of the business, La Tercera reported, citing a securities filing by the Spanish bank. The potential sale of the car financing unit, which is estimated by market sources to be worth up to $1 billion, comes five months after BBVA completed the transfer of its stake in Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria Chile SA to Bank of Nova Scotia and would mark BBVA's departure from the Andean nation.

* Banco Santander Chile instructed Credicorp Capital to sell its entire stakes in Chilean payment companies Transbank SA, Redbanc SA and Sociedad Operadora de Tarjetas de Crédito Nexus SA, and has delegated its rights as a shareholder in the firms while the stake sales are pending, Diario Financiero reported. The move follows a legal battle between antitrust regulator TDLC and Transbank, in which the competition body claimed that credit card administrator charged abusive fees.

* Chile's SBIF banking regulator has given Caja de Compensación de Asignación Familiar de Los Andes the go-ahead to launch a prepaid payment card for its affiliates, Diario Financiero reported. The card business will be operated by a new unit called Los Andes Tarjetas de Prepago SA.

* Chile's EuroAmerica Seguros de Vida SA said its board had appointed Rodrigo González del Barrio as general manager, according to a regulatory filing.

* The International Monetary Fund's executive board approved a disbursement of $7.6 billion to Argentina, bringing total aid so far to $20.21 billion, Reuters reported. In its review of Argentina's standby financing agreement, the IMF also asked the country to limit wage increases for government workers at 25% to meet the budget goal for 2019. The latest tranche of funds should arrive in the country before Christmas, Clarín reported separately.

* Argentina's central bank canceled its final 68 billion pesos in Lebac notes, ending the process of eliminating the stock of the paper that started in the middle of the year, Clarín reported. The stock of Lebacs, which have been replaced with new seven-day Leliq paper sold only to banks, had peaked at more than 1 trillion pesos.

* The new president of Uruguay's central bank, Alberto Graña, met with lawmakers to discuss the monetary authority's regulations for the fintech sector, rejecting criticism of the new rules from the industry and saying the entity had sought to balance consumer safeguards and efforts to develop the financial system, El País reported.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

* Asia-Pacific: Punjab National Bank officials arrested; Bursa Malaysia names CEO

* Middle East & Africa: Nasdaq Dubai to launch futures trading; Gulf nations hike rates after Fed move

* Europe: EU outlines no-deal Brexit plan; UK banks named in RBS scheme

Helen Popper contributed to this article.

The Daily Dose has an editorial deadline of 8:00 a.m. São Paulo time, and scans news sources published in English, Portuguese and Spanish. Some external links may require a subscription. Links are current as of publication time, and we are not responsible if those links are unavailable later.