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Banking

Real world beaters?

Brazil’s investment banks have always been strong competitors in their home market. Now, as the country’s corporates flex their muscles on the global stage, Lawrence White reports on whether banks such as Itaú and Votorantim see ­themselves as international contenders.

TOWARDS THE END of a long interview with Roberto Setubal, CEO of Brazil’s Banco Itaú, Euromoney attempts to move the topic of conversation from the organization’s achievements to the man’s, asking: "Do you have any ambitions outside of Brazil?" Setubal responds by looking out over the view of São Paulo from the spacious comfort of his office at the top of one of the bank’s city-centre towers. As he begins to discuss the possibility of long-term overseas acquisitions and strategic positioning, it takes a moment to realize that he has misunderstood the question and is talking about the bank rather than himself. It’s an appropriate end to the conversation: Setubal has been modest throughout where his many personal triumphs are concerned but he has nothing but pride for what Itaú has achieved in the years since he became CEO in 1994. The question now is what this bank, and this highly respected banker, aim to do as Brazil and its companies begin to assert themselves as heavyweights in the international capital markets.

Itaú’s fourth-quarter profits for 2006 showed a drop to R$1.28 billion (US$613 million) from R$1.42 billion a year earlier, thanks mainly to a R$408 million charge for the acquisition of BankBoston’s business in Chile and Uruguay.

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