Mexico says has ‘no bias’ on possible buyers for Citigroup assets

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FILE PHOTO: A Citibank sign is seen outside of a bank outlet in New York

By Dave Graham

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s government has “no bias” on potential buyers for the assets of Citigroup that the U.S. bank is selling in Mexico, with both international and domestic bidders welcome, Finance Minister Rogelio Ramirez de la O said on Wednesday.

Citigroup said on Tuesday it was selling its consumer banking operations in Mexico, and Ramirez told Reuters in an interview the process would be open to all.

“Both national and foreign (bidders) with a presence in Mexico and outside of Mexico,” he said. The government did not want to influence or negatively affect the sale, he said.

“It would be improper for the government to give a signal at this point,” he said, adding Mexico had “no bias.”

As the process matured, the government and regulators would give careful consideration to the different bids, said Ramirez, who was emphatic in underlining that Mexico wanted the Citibanamex assets up for sale to retain their value.

“This interest is because we don’t want account holders of Citibanamex feeling they need to go to another bank,” he said.

The finance ministry earlier said it would be paying close attention to what implications the deal had for concentration of market power, though Ramirez stressed this was a task for antitrust authority the Federal Economic Competition Commission.

Citibanamex is already Mexico’s no. 3 consumer bank, and when asked if the antitrust concerns could make a bid tougher by Spain’s BBVA, a top player in Mexico, Ramirez said it was not up to him to make determinations on market concentration.

The two together have much of the market. The government had no interest in acquiring the Citigroup assets and the process of the sale would take time, Ramirez said. He declined to forecast how long that could be.

(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool)

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