Santander Mexico says management skills should take priority in selling Citibanamex

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Adds CFO commentary, background details

MEXICO CITY, February 4 (Reuters)Management experience and skills should take precedence over the nationality of the person who ultimately bids to acquire the Mexican banking arm of Citigroup Citibanamex, a senior executive from the Mexican unit of Banco Santander SAN.MC said Friday.

Asked about Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s commitment to return the bank to Mexican hands, CFO Didier Mena said: “My opinion is that the nationality of the capital should be less relevant than the person running the bank. “

Citigroup announced last month that it would sell Citibanamex, ending two decades of retail presence in Mexico and prompting Lopez Obrador to call on domestic investors to buy up the assets and “Mexicanize” the bank.

Citibanamex has attracted interest from Spain’s Santander, Mexico’s Grupo Financiero Banorte GFNOREO.MX and others.

Mena said he doesn’t think Citigroup would exclude a potential bidder based on their nationality. “If Citi excludes foreign players, they will end up with very few potential interested parties.”

Analysts said Mexico’s largest bank, the local branch of Spain’s BBVA BBVA.MCwould likely face antitrust issues when buying Citibanamex, but Banorte is unlikely to do so.

(Reporting by Valentine Hilaire; Editing by Anthony Esposito and David Evans)

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