* Brazilian Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said if state-run lender Caixa Econômica Federal's main objective is to maximize profits, then the bank should be privatized or merged with Banco do Brasil SA, Valor Econômico and Diário Comércio Indústria & Serviços reported. A public bank like Caixa should be to looking to use excess profits to lower interest rates, Guedes said at an event.
* Former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner surprised the markets by announcing that she will run for vice president in upcoming elections, with former cabinet chief Alberto Fernandez leading the ticket as presidential candidate, El Cronista reported. Fernandez de Kirchner was widely expected to seek a new term as president.
MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA
* Panama's Global Bank Corp. said it is set to absorb Banco Panameño de la Vivienda SA, or Banvivienda, following parent company G.B. Group Corp.'s purchase of Banvivienda in late 2018.
* The impact of a recent earthquake centered near Panama on the country's insurance industry will remain contained due mainly to the low impact of the quake coupled with low insurance penetration in provinces closest to the epicenter, AM Best said. The magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck a lightly populated region of Panama on May 12.
* Fitch Ratings withdrew its ratings on Banco de Costa Rica for commercial reasons. The withdrawn ratings include the bank's long-term foreign and local currency issuer default ratings of B+ and viability rating of "b+."
* The trade dispute between the U.S., Mexico and Canada over aluminum and steel tariffs is set to end as the three countries agreed May 17 to drop duties within two days.
* The Mexican government plans to draft differentiated regulations for different types of banks will not put financial system stability at risk, El Economista reported, citing Julio Carranza, the vice president of local banking association ABM and general director of BanCoppel SA Institución de Banca Múltiple.
* Caixa Econômica Federal will launch a voluntary dismissal program in June with the aim of cutting 3,500 positions, Folha de S.Paulo reported. The state-run bank, which has implemented a series of voluntary redundancy programs since 2016, did not immediately disclose the estimated savings expected from the program.
* BB Gestão de Recursos-Distribuidora de Títulos e Valores Mobiliários SA plans to offer investment funds outside of its banking branch network to grow its assets under management, new CEO Carlos André said in an interview with Valor Econômico. The company expects growth of between 7% and 12% in assets under management this year.
* Banco do Brasil SA, a shareholder of Neoenergia SA, has agreed to an estimated valuation of 18.4 billion reais for the energy company's planned IPO, Valor Econômico reported. The bank reportedly wanted to test a higher valuation but agreed to the lower amount after meeting with advisers.
* Itaú Unibanco Holding SA concluded an exchange-traded fund, or ETF, offering that raised almost 2.00 billion reais, much higher than what was initially forecast, Valor Econômico reported.
* Finsocial SAS aims to place 300 billion Colombian pesos of new loans in 2019, which would bring the company's total credit portfolio to at least 550 billion pesos, co-founder and manager Santiago Botero said in an interview with Portafolio.
* A Colombian draft law that seeks to eliminate some charges for banking services, such as fees for balance inquiries, could impact the credit profiles of local banks as it would reduce their sources of recurrent income, La República reported, citing Alejandro García, head of Latin American financial institutions at Fitch Ratings. The bill is currently being debated in Congress.
* The Center for Strategic and International Studies, an influential Washington-based think tank, is supporting Argentina's entry into the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Clarín reported.
* The latest round of incognito surveys by Argentina's central bank showed that only around 21% of local lenders are offering microcredit loans to individuals, a segment the monetary authority has been looking to stimulate, El Cronista reported.
* Banchile Seguros de Vida SA and SegChile Seguros Generales SA said Ruperto González Bolbarán will step down as general manager of both companies on May 31. He will be replaced by José Luis Daroch Bülher, who currently serves as deputy general manager of both entities.
* Santander Consumer Chile SA said it appointed Joaquín Zapata Fernández general manager, replacing Jorge Julio Tagle Arrizaga, who has resigned.
* Chilean banking regulator SBIF said more than 1,700 bank cards were fraudulently cloned at a service station in Santiago, La Tercera reported. The affected banks have started blocking the cards and informing clients about the incident.
* Chilean insurance companies posted aggregate profits of about US$163 million in the first quarter, down 3.2% from the year-ago period, Diario Financiero reported, citing regulatory data. The decline was driven by lower revenues in the life insurance segment.
* Paraguay's Banco Basa SA said it is not being investigated as part of Brazil's massive "Lava Jato" corruption probe, La Nación reported. Brazilian lender Banco Paulista SA, which has been linked to the investigation, serves as a correspondent bank for Banco Basa.
Helen Popper contributed to this article.
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