Elsztain to head Hipotecario

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, March 12, 2009
Argentine businessman Eduardo Elsztain has been appointed the new chairman of Banco Hipotecario on an interim basis, after Clarisa Lifsic resigned for "strictly personal reasons," the bank said in a filing sent to the stock exchange. The appointment of Elsztain, who is also president of the bank's controller, IRSA group, will only speed up the government's plan to nationalize Banco Hipotecario, local daily El Cronista reported. The government has a 64.5% non-controlling stake in Hipotecario, but through a shareholder pact the bank is managed by IRSA and two other funds, which together own 35.5%. According to the paper, Elsztain might take an offer from the government for IRSA's so-called "golden share," as he may be going through tough financial times. The holding of mid-term congressional elections in October has prompted Argentina's government to consider nationalizing the bank in a bid to revive the country's sluggish mortgage loan market so more Argentines have access to home financing. Elsztain met with cabinet chief Sergio Massa on February 17 to discuss the issue, but the final stages of the nationalization of Hipotecario are being fine-tuned by Elsztain and former President Néstor Kirchner himself, El Cronista said. Hipotecario's main business is mortgages, a segment that has virtually come to a halt in Argentina. The bank reported a 23mn-peso (US$6.31mn) loss in 2008, mainly due to losses from derivatives related to its stock, particularly from the first half of the year. The bank ranks ninth in terms of assets and third in net worth in Argentina's financial system.

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