SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Itaú Unibanco Holding SA <ITUB4.SA>, Brazil's largest bank by market value, is close to placing a binding offer for the retail banking unit of Citigroup Inc <C.N> in Uruguay, newspaper El Observador said on its website.
A purchase of the unit would turn Itaú into Uruguay's second-largest bank after Banco Santander SA <SAN.MC> of Spain, the Uruguayan newspaper said, citing unnamed sources familiar with the situation. Terms of the deal, including its size, were not disclosed in the newspaper report.
A spokeswoman for Itaú in São Paulo declined to comment on market speculation. Efforts to reach media staff at Citigroup's Uruguayan unit were unsuccessful.
Both lenders are trying to close the deal "as soon as possible," Observador noted, adding that the transaction would involve the transfer of assets and liabilities from Citigroup's retail banking unit in the South American country as well as 62 employees belonging to that division.
(Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Editing by Nick Zieminski)