Corpbanca Jumps in Chile Amid Speculation Saieh May Sell

Corpbanca posted its biggest two-day gain since 2011 on speculation that billionaire Alvaro Saieh might sell his controlling stake in the Chilean lender at a premium to raise money to avert a collapse of his grocery chain.

Corpbanca’s shares jumped 5.2 percent to 6.32 today in Santiago, extending the gain over the past two days to 8.9 percent, the biggest such increase since August 2011. The Santiago-based bank was the best performer today on the benchmark IPSA index, which rose 1.4 percent.

Speculation has mounted that Saieh will sell Corpbanca to meet a pledge to pump $300 million into his grocery-store chain SMU SA by year-end and after Brazilian lender Itau Unibanco Holding SA told analysts on a conference call this week that Chile is a priority market. SMU’s $300 million of bonds due 2020 have lost 43 percent this year, and shareholders this month approved a $500 million capital increase.

“There are rumors that Itau may be interested,” German Guerrero, a partner at brokerage MBI Inversiones, said in a phone interview from Santiago. “Corpbanca’s shares also have been overly punished this year because of SMU contagion, so that explains part of the recent recovery.”

Arturo Curtze, an analyst at broker and asset manager Vantrust Capital Corredores, said the recent share gains are tied to “speculation that a local or international bank may try to buy Corpbanca, since the controlling shareholder needs to raise money to inject in its supermarket company.”

External press relations officers for Corpbanca didn’t respond to an e-mail and phone call seeking comment on a possible sale.

Roberto Setubal, the chief executive officer of Brazilian lender Itau Unibanco Holding SA, told analysts on a conference call this week that Chile is a priority market. The comment fueled the Corpbanca speculation, according to Curtze.

Itau’s press office in Sao Paulo, where financial markets are closed for a holiday, didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment. The bank’s office in Chile didn’t immediately return a phone call.

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