Banco Modal Said to Be in Talks to Buy Banif Brazil Unit

Banco Modal SA, the Brazilian lender trying to become a full-service investment bank, is in talks to buy the Brazil subsidiary of Portugal’s Banif SGPS SA, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Banif hired Credit Suisse Group AG to find a buyer, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the negotiations are private. Rio de Janeiro-based Modal also may pursue a takeover of the Brazilian subsidiary of Standard Bank Group Ltd., Africa’s largest lender, the person said.

Eduardo Centola, the former head of investment banking in Brazil for UBS AG, took over that job for Modal last month, and said in an interview at the time that he wasn’t ruling out acquisitions. Banif, based in Funchal, Madeira, wants to sell its Brazil division as Europe’s debt crisis pushes up funding costs, people familiar with the plan said in November.

Officials at Modal, Banif and Credit Suisse declined to comment, asking not to be named in keeping with company policy. An official at Standard Bank said there are no current negotiations and also asked to not be named.

Modal, with about 200 employees, has total equity of 246.7 million reais ($135 million) and assets of 1.5 billion reais as of Dec. 31, according to data on the website of Brazil’s central bank. The company’s asset-management business oversees more than 4 billion reais, and Centola said last month it also plans to open a brokerage.

Modal was in talks last year to be acquired by Plural Capital Ltda. for 300 million reais, a deal that later collapsed. Growing demand for corporate financing has boosted the investment-banking business in Brazil, the second-largest developing economy after China, and the nation’s central bank is seeking to promote consolidation in the financial industry.

Standard Bank Group, based in Johannesburg, said April 18 it will reduce its assets in Brazil, leading to “a downscaling of less than 30 people in terms of staffing.” At the same time, the lender named Andrea Menezes chief executive officer of its Brazilian unit, replacing Fernando Negri.

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