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BBVA explores another sale in Chile; Mexico hikes benchmark rate

S&P Global Market Intelligence presents the week's latest news and trends in Latin American banking.

M&A pipeline

* Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA is exploring strategic alternatives, including a partial or total sale, for its automobile financing business in Chile, which is primarily managed by FORUM Servicios Financieros SA. The review follows BBVA selling its Chilean banking unit earlier in 2018.

* Banco Santander Chile has reportedly 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.

* Banco Santander (Brasil) SA said it will acquire the remaining 11.5% stake in Getnet Adquirencia e Serviços para Meios de Pagamento SA from the electronic payment firm's minority shareholders for 1.43 billion reais. Santander Brasil already holds a stake of 88.5% in Getnet.

* Itaú Comisionista de Bolsa Colombia SA is in discussions to sell its entire stake in Panama-based unit Itaú Casa de Valores SA. The sale talks come as Itaú Comisionista searches for opportunities that provide greater value to clients.

* Advent International Corp. reached an agreement to acquire a 51% stake in Argentine payment processing firm Prisma Medios de Pago SA for about $725 million, insiders told Clarín. Prisma is owned by 14 of the largest banks in Argentina and by Visa International.

Monetary policy

* Banco de México raised its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points to 8.25%, citing above-target inflation expectations and the emergence of inflationary risks. At about 3.50%, inflation expectations for the medium and long terms continue to be above the central bank's 3% target.

* Policymakers at Banco Central del Paraguay unanimously decided to maintain the benchmark interest rate at 5.25%, noting that inflation expectations remain in line with the bank's 4% medium-term target.

* Bank of Jamaica lowered its policy interest rate by 25 basis points to 1.75%, saying that inflation could now fall below the lower limit of the bank's 4.0% to 6.0% target range in the second half of 2019 and early 2020.

Partnerships

* Brazil's Cielo SA signed a nonbinding memorandum of understanding with Banco Original SA to explore a new digital offering model and payment solutions for micro and small entrepreneurs.

* Grupo Financiero Base SA de CV is launching a financial technology investment plan that will see the Mexican banking group invest about $10 million to update its computer systems and create new alliances with financial technology startups.

* Mexico-based Q-Pagos SAPI de CV has launched a new financial technology firm called Suretly México SA de CV in a joint venture with U.S.-based Suretly Inc. Q-Pagos owns 49.9% of Suretly México.

In other news

* XP Investimentos SA has reportedly gained authorization from Brazil's central bank to create its own bank, which is expected to begin operations during the second half of 2019. The company also obtained a favorable ruling from a business court prohibiting Banco BTG Pactual SA from approaching or negotiating with distribution agents that are part of XP's network.

* Banco De Desarrollo De América Latina approved a $500 million credit line to Venezuela despite attempts by Argentina, Colombia and Brazil to block the loan. Argentina, which is a member of the multilateral development bank, reportedly voiced concerns over Venezuela's ability to repay the funds given the country's financial situation.

* Peru's Congress approved a proposal to revive and financially strengthen distressed state-run agricultural lender Banco Agropecuario. In doing so, legislators discarded an alternative option that envisioned the creation of a new institution called Mi Agro to take over Banco Agropecuario's assets and liabilities.

* Banco BMG SA confirmed the suspension of its initial public offering for up to 60 days after seeing weak demand. The Brazilian bank took the decision in light of current market conditions.

Featured this week on S&P Global Market Intelligence

* As Venezuela implodes, bondholders begin legal wrangling: Investors holding billions of dollars in Venezuelan debt are gearing up for litigation as the once-wealthy country heads into 2019 facing prospects of a near-complete economic and political collapse.

* Hires and Fires: A weekly rundown of executive management, board and other personnel moves at Latin American financial institutions.

* Ratings Roundup: A summary of various ratings actions on Latin American financial institutions and economies.