Mexican banking group Banorte is in talks to acquire Citi’s retail banking business in the country, Reuters has reported.

As an initial step towards bidding for Citi’s local arm, the bank has signed “non-disclosure agreements”, the report said.

The news comes as Banorte reported a $540m net profit in the first quarter of 2022, which is 26% higher than the year before.

Additionally, Banorte’s executives also revealed that the bank is seeking regulatory clearance to launch a digital bank.

Banorte is fighting “for an even playing field” versus startups, CEO Marcos Ramirez Miguel was quoted by the news agency as saying.

The bank will make a proposal before its board and shareholders if the terms presented by Citi are “convenient”, Miguel noted.

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By GlobalData

In January this year, Citi announced plans to shutters its consumer, small business and middle-market banking business in the country.

The divesture is part of Citi’s global restructuring plan that includes exiting several retail banking markets and focusing on the investment banking business.

According to media reports, the assets up for sale could be valued at around $15bn.

“For us to define that this is a transaction that interests us, without a doubt, it has to be a transaction that generates profitability for our investors,” Banorte chairman Carlos Hank González was quoted by Bloomberg as saying earlier.

Other than Banorte, Spanish lender Banco Santander and Bank of Nova Scotia could also bid for Citi’s business in Mexico.

Shortly after Citi’s announcement, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador urged the country’s leaders to buy the US firm’s assets to “Mexicanize” the bank.