Banorte wants to lead Mexicans to ‘recover’ Citi unit, if sale conditions are favorable

FILE PHOTO: A sign of Banorte bank is seen at the Koi Tower office building in Pedro Garza Garcia
FILE PHOTO: A sign of Banorte bank is seen at the Koi Tower office buildng in Pedro Garza Garcia, Mexico July 1, 2019. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

March 22, 2022

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican banking institution Banorte will invite Mexicans to “recover” Citigroup’s retail unit in the country, which is set to go up for sale in coming months, if Banorte decides to go forward with the purchase, the bank said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in January he hopes to see investors “Mexicanize” the unit, still commonly known as Banamex, its name before Citi purchased it in 2001.

Lopez Obrador floated the names of several Mexican billionaires, such as Ricardo Salinas, who runs Banco Azteca, and Banorte’s Carlos Hank Gonzalez as potential buyers.

“This is a historic opportunity to strengthen the national banking system, bringing together businessmen and the Mexican public,” Gonzalez said in the statement. “For Banorte, it would be a pride to champion this initiative, in case it is judged beneficial for our investors and banking users.”

Banorte said after the sale was announced in January it would analyze a potential bid. Citi has yet to set a date to “open the books” and make terms of the sale transparent, a Banorte spokesperson told Reuters on Tuesday.

In the statement, Banorte said it would invite its national network of entrepreneurs, as well as “all Mexicans,” to invest in the purchase without a minimum buy-in, if Banorte decides to place a bid.

Citigroup Chief Executive Jane Fraser announced the sale in January, in line with the institution’s recent strategy of exiting international markets.

Meanwhile, an executive of the Mexican unit said in February that its commitment to the country was “more active than ever” as the bank announced a $68 million expansion and remodel plan.

(Reporting by Raul Cortes and Valentine Hilaire; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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