Itaú Unibanco unit plans to grow loans 50% above market in 2011

- Friday, March 11, 2011

Itaú Unibanco unit plans to grow loans 50% above market in 2011

The Chilean subsidiary of Brazil's Itaú Unibanco (NYSE: ITUB) plans to grow loans 50% above the banking system in 2011, after tripling the market's growth rate last year, Itaú Chile's marketing and new businesses manager, Álvaro Cámbara, told BNamericas.

Since it began operating in Chile in 2007, Banco Itaú Chile has been the fastest-growing bank among the country's top 10 players, doubling the system's annual loan growth over the last few years, he said.

Net loans in Chile rose 5.12% as of December 31 compared with the same time in 2009, to 76tn pesos (US$157bn), dragged by the system's largest segment, corporate lending, which inched up 4.33% to 45.6tn pesos.

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Last year, Banco Itaú Chile grew loans 15.6% on the back of stronger activity in retail and corporate lending.

Bankers and analysts believe lending in the Chilean banking system will expand around 15% this year.

STRATEGY FOR 2011

The bank will invest this year in opening 12 new branches, revamping its IT system and improving efficiency to consolidate its leadership in the higher-income segment of the population, Cámbara said.

Itaú Chile's goal is to grab a 25% market share in this segment over the next few years.

Cámbara said the bank is also targeting SMEs, as well as playing a very active role in large, more sophisticated deals for its corporate customers.

"Our treasury area has been very active in derivatives, and we plan to move forward with the developing of options," he said.

"We're also strengthening our investment products portfolio, both for retail and institutional investors, and we aim to be the gateway and link for Chilean and Brazilian corporates that operate in both countries as well as within the region."

NO CAPITALIZATION NEEDED, BUT...

The executive said the bank, unlike some of its local competitors, is well capitalized to keep growing its lending at high rates.

"In case we need it, our parent company strongly believes in its Chilean unit, so it will clearly keep supporting the success we have shown so far," Cámbara said.

As part of its funding diversification strategy, Itaú Chile last year signed its first US$200mn, two-year syndicated loan with a pool of 10 international banks to fund growth, especially in the corporate business segment and with companies that operate in US dollars.

Banco Itaú Chile is the country's eighth-largest bank, commanding a 3.5% loan market share.