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Itaú confirms merger talks for Citi's Brazilian retail ops

Itaú Unibanco HoldingSA confirmed that it is in talksto possibly purchase Citigroup Inc.'sretail operations in Brazil.

In a statement released late on Sept. 21, the Brazilian bankstressed that it has yet to sign an agreement for a deal, adding that it would announcethe result of negotiations when they are concluded.

The statement follows several news reports claiming that Itaúis in exclusive talks to acquire Citi's retail business in the country after outbiddingrival Banco Santander SA.

The Spanish bank, however, reportedly obtained exclusive rightsto negotiate the acquisition of Citi's retail business in Argentina, while Canada'sBank of Nova Scotia isin talks to acquire Citi's consumer banking operations in Colombia.

Sources told O Estado deS. Paulo that the president of Citi's Brazilian unit, Hélio Magalhães, and ItaúUnibanco's CEO, Roberto Setubal, are in New York to discuss the final terms of anagreement, while Banco Santander (Brasil)SA CEO Sergio Rial is in Madrid.

Citigroup put its consumer banking in the three countries in February; the NewYork-based company is expected to announce the buyers in the coming weeks.