(Recasts to add background, share performance)
By Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Aluísio Alves
SAO PAULO, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Banco Santander Brasil SA plans to name veteran dealmaker Sérgio Rial as chairman as early as Thursday, two sources with direct knowledge of the situation said, as Brazil’s largest foreign lender struggles to catch up with bigger state-owned and private-sector rivals.
Rial would replace Celso Giacometti, who rose to chairman of the bank in August 2013. Rial, who worked for a combined 20 years at Bear Stearns Cos and ABN Amro NV, announced on Thursday a plan to quit as chief executive of meatpacker Marfrig Global Foods SA after one year at the post.
Rial’s appointment could strengthen Santander Brasil’s plans to grow in retail and corporate banking as the lender seeks to weather the impact on earnings of Brazil’s stagnant economy. Shares of Santander Brasil jumped 3.6 percent on the news, helping extend their 7.8 percent gain over the past year.
Currently, Santander Brasil has the lowest profitability indicators and smallest loan book among Brazil’s top four listed banks. Chief Executive Officer Jesús Zabalza’s efforts to help Santander Brasil expand faster in card processing, financial services and lending to mid-sized companies are bolstering profits, although at a slower pace than required, analysts said.
Last year Spain’s Banco Santander SA, Santander Brasil’s parent, carried out a stock swap with minority shareholders to assert control of the flagging subsidiary. The lender declined to comment.
One of the sources, who requested anonymity because the process to select a chairman remains private, said an announcement could come later in the day. Efforts to contact Rial for comment were unsuccessful.
In a securities filing, Marfrig said Rial will be replaced by Martin Secco Arias, who heads Marfrig’s Beef Southern Cone operations, effective Feb. 16. During his stint, Rial helped to turn around Brazil’s No. 2 meatpacker, selling a key processed food unit to trim debt and improving cost performance.
Rial currently sits on the board of Brazilian homebuilder Cyrela Brazil Realty SA and Delta Air Lines Inc .
Bonds of the São Paulo-based meatpacker fell on Thursday after the report. Since Rial replaced founder and controlling shareholder Marcos Molina dos Santos as CEO, prices on Marfrig’s dollar-denominated bond due in 2020 have jumped 11 percent.
Marfrig shares rose 5 percent on Thursday after shedding 12 percent over the past 30 days. (Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Aluísio Alves; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli, Jeffrey Benkoe and Chris Reese)