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Grupo Elektra Q4'17 profit nosedives; Principal-MetLife Afore merger completed

* Grupo Elektra SAB de CV posted net income of 902 million Mexican pesos for the fourth quarter of 2017, compared to 2.92 billion pesos in the year-ago period. Financial expenses went up 56% to 4.29 billion pesos, from 2.75 billion pesos year on year.

* Principal Financial Group Inc. has completed the acquisition of insurer Metlife Afore, S.A. De C.V. after Mexican regulators approved the deal. Clients currently served by MetLife Afore will become part of Principal AFORE S.A. de C.V., Grupo Financiero, under Principal Financial Group, over the next several months as the businesses merge.

MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA

* Uncertainties stemming from the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, remain a threat for Mexico's outlook, Moody's said in a report. The rating agency's baseline scenario assumes that a revised NAFTA deal would be reached at the end of the first quarter of 2018, anchoring a slight uptick in Mexico's economy as it grows between 2.0% and 2.5% annually from 2018 until 2019.

* Banco de Costa Rica has appointed Douglas Soto Leitón, current manager of the BCR Sociedad Corredora de Seguros, SA, as the bank's interim general manager, effective Feb. 26, La Nación reported, citing a regulatory filing.

* Moody's downgraded Suriname's long-term issuer and senior unsecured ratings to B2 from B1, changed the outlook to negative from 'rating under review,' and also downgraded the long-term foreign-currency bond and deposit ceilings to Ba3 from Ba2 and to B3 from B2, respectively. The downgrade reflects Suriname's eroded fiscal metrics, which are seen in higher debt ratios and deteriorating debt affordability metrics despite fiscal reforms.

CARIBBEAN

* Scotia Investments Jamaica Ltd. said it will be delisted from the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange effective Feb. 21. The Board of Commissioners had approved an application by the stock exchange to delist Scotia Investments, after the company carried out an agreement that resulted in the cancellation of all its outstanding and publicly traded shares, except those held in Scotia Group Jamaica Ltd.

BRAZIL

* Banco Santander (Brasil) SA acquired all the shares of Isban Brasil S.A., and also approved primary terms of an agreement to acquire Produban Serviços de Informática S.A., all for 102.0 million reais. Both tech firms are indirectly controlled by Santander Brasil's Spanish parent.

* S&P Global Ratings assigned brAA-/brA-1+ long- and short-term Brazilian national scale issuer credit ratings to Banco Sumitomo Mitsui Brasileiro SA. The ratings incorporate S&P's view that the company is a highly strategic subsidiary for its Japanese parent.

* Leading ratings agencies have indicated that the Brazilian government's decision to shelve a long-awaited pension reform will have a negative impact on the country's sovereign rating, Valor Econômico reported.

ANDEAN

* Citibank - Colombia SA approved a Jan. 31, 2018 deal for the sale of its consumer and small and medium enterprise operations to Bank of Nova Scotia's Colombian subsidiary, Banco Colpatria Multibanca Colpatria SA, a regulatory filing showed.

* Bancolombia SA's board has agreed to propose a total dividend payment of about 2.262 trillion Colombian pesos for 2018, or 1,020 pesos per share, to be paid quarterly. The proposal also includes the establishment of a legal reserve for retained earnings amounting to about 1.281 trillion pesos.

* Colombia's microfinance credit portfolio is expected to grow 15% this year as entrepreneurs respond to improved economic conditions, Portafolio reported, citing María Clara Hoyos, the president of the Asomicrofinance industry association. In 2017, microfinance lending rose 12%, bringing the total portfolio to 14.300 trillion Colombian pesos.

* Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said the country received $735.0 million in a presale of its "petro" cryptocurrency on Feb. 20, though he did not give details on the investors or the figure, Reuters reported. The cryptocurrency's first operation involved a private sale of 38.4 million petro tokens, which will run until March 19, El País said. Another 44 million will be sold in an initial coin offering on March 20, while 17.6 million tokens will be reserved by the government, for a total of 100 million tokens, which is worth at least $6.00 billion.

* Luis Almagro, secretary-general for the Organisation of American States, said that sanctions against Venezuela "have to become harsher" to further pressure the Venezuelan administration, Reuters reported. Almagro said that sanctions must be extended to the entire administration that will potentially affect Venezuelan oil production, as opposed to previous sanctions that only targeted individuals.

SOUTHERN CONE

* Argentina's central bank sold 411.01 billion Argentine pesos worth of Lebac securities in a Feb. 20 auction, though it cut the rate on 28-day Lebac notes to 26.75% from the 27.24% rate in the previous month, Reuters reported.

* Argentine banking activity came to a virtual standstill on Feb. 20, the second day of a 48-hour strike by the leading La Bancaria union to protest a 9% wage increase offer by employers, Clarín reported. General Secretary Sergio Palazzo said La Bancaria members would accompany a march by the truckers' union on Feb. 21, after which it would consider whether to launch fresh protest measures.

* Chile's antitrust watchdog Fiscalía Nacional Económica, or the FNE, said it would extend for 90 days a probe on whether Banco Santander Chile's purchase of a third of payment administrator Servipag Ltda. poses a threat to free competition, Diario Financiero reported. The FNE said in a statement it was concerned that the operation could lead to the closure of Santander Chile's branches, among other reasons.

* Banco del Estado de Chile elevated to the Supreme Court its complaint on the Labor Directorate's decision on the required minimum service levels in case of a strike, after the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the labor courts saying they are not competent to rule on the matter, Pulso reported. The publication said several banks have already taken their complaints to the top court over the issue.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

* Asia-Pacific: Thailand to issue ICO, cryptocurrency rules in March; ANZ faces lawsuit

* Middle East & Africa: Commercial Bank agrees to sell UAB stake; dividend rule hits Nigeria bank stocks

S&P Global Ratings and S&P Global Market Intelligence are owned by S&P Global Inc.

Helen Popper contributed to this article.

The Daily Dose has an editorial deadline of 8:00 a.m. São Paulo time, and scans news sources published in English, Portuguese and Spanish. Some external links may require a subscription.