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Citigroup extends final bid deadline for Argentine banking operations

has extended to Aug.1 from July 25 the deadline for companies to submit final bids for its retail bankingoperations in Argentina, Cronista reportedJuly 22, citing an executive close to the process.

The winnercould be announced "one or two weeks" later, the source said.

Citigroupreportedly received fivepreliminary bids with offers ranging from $180 million to $250 million, La Nación reported in June.

,Banco Macro S.A., and , as wellas a group led by former Citigroup executive Juan Bruchou in partnership with Peru'sInterbank, all reportedlysubmitted bids.

Bruchoucould have an advantage over the other bidders because Argentina's central bankwould prefer to see a new player in the market, but he may have dropped out of therace due to lack of funds, Cronista reported.

The winningbidder is likely to implement an aggressive commercial policy to retain clientsand may have to lay off some Citi employees in Buenos Aires, the report said. However,Banco Macro, if it wins the tender, is likely to have fewer problems than otherbanks given its different focus as a national bank with a strong presence in provincesoutside Buenos Aires.

Citiis looking to exit its retail banking operations in several South American countries,including Argentina, Brazil and Colombia, but will retain its corporate bankingpresence in the region.

Separately,the recent decision byan Argentine federal court judge to freeze the assets of Grupo Indalo's owner, Cristóbal López, could delay the saleof its subsidiary Banco Finansur SA,Cronista reported.

Althoughthe bank has said the move should not affect its day-to-day operations, it complicatesthe sale process because special authorization from the judge would be needed toclose the sale, the report said.

As aresult, the process is not likely to advance until the end of August, the reportsaid.