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Santander Brasil to open 100 agencies for agribusiness clients by 2018

Banco Santander (Brasil) SA will open 100 new agencies by 2018 to strengthen operations in agribusiness, CEO Sergio Rial said, according to a Reuters report published in Diário Comércio Indústria & Serviços.

The new agencies, to be located in the country's interior, will be more focused on business development compared to traditional branches and will offer products specially designed for the sector's needs, such as credit lines with grace periods until harvest time, said Rial during the Reuters Latin American Investment Summit.

Being a former executive of agriculture giants such as Cargill and Marfrig, Rial remarked that the industry remains one of the two main growth vectors for the bank as it accounts for roughly 20% of Brazil's GDP, the report noted.

"Providing specific products requires a knowledge of the [business] ecosystem, it's not a business for amateurs," the executive pointed out.

Since Rial's appointment two years ago, Santander Brasil has doubled its share within the country's agribusiness credit market to 8%, overperforming its private peers but remaining well behind state-owned market leader Banco do Brasil SA, the report said.

"Any bank that wants to grow strong in Brazil needs to have an important role in agribusiness," Rial remarked.

Regarding overall profitability, Rial noted that due to Banco Central do Brasil's rate-cut cycle, banks' return on equity, or ROE, will be challenged. Nonetheless, the executive showed "zero concern" for Santander's ROE as the drop in margins should be offset by an "acceleration in business volume."