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By Guillermo Parra-Bernal
SAO PAULO, Feb 26 (Reuters) - First Data Corp on Thursday named banker Gustavo Marin to head its Latin America unit, as the U.S. payment processor controlled by KKR & Co steps up plans to grow in the region's major economies.
Marin, formerly Citigroup Inc's top regional officer in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, will be based in São Paulo and report to First Data's CEO and Chairman Frank Bisignano, according to a statement, which confirmed a Reuters report earlier on Thursday.
The Uruguay-born executive faces the task of expanding First Data's sales of payment solutions systems across Central and South America and the Caribbean, where years of strong growth fanned demand for plastic money. Currently, the Atlanta-based firm has 70 financial institutions and 240,000 shops as clients.
The depth of Marin's "relationships in Latin America and around the world, coupled with his extensive experience in the financial services industry bring to First Data powerful insights and capabilities that will help our clients in these key markets," Bisignano said in the statement.
Marin's appointment takes effect March 1, the statement said, adding that Debbie Guerra will stay as president of First Data's Brazilian unit. Guerra is spearheading First Data's move into Brazil's buoyant acquiring sector through ventures to expand in cities in the country's most populous states.
According to industry group Abecs, Brazil's $400 billion card payment industry has grown 19 percent on average annually over the past five years.
Marin will also join First Data's management committee, the statement noted. (Editing by Bernadette Baum and Alan Crosby)