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Novo Banco explores WiZink consumer tie-up in Portugal –sources

By Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro and Andres Gonzalez

LONDON, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Portuguese lender Novo Banco is exploring a potential tie-up in Portugal with Madrid-based consumer finance provider WiZink, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

This could result in a joint venture where Novo Banco funds WiZink-originated loans, with WiZink owner Varde Partners retaining some control of the new entity, one of sources said.

Novo Banco, which was born out of Portugal's failed Banco Espirito Santo and is majority-owned by private equity group Lone Star, is competing in the final stages of a sale process for WiZink's Portuguese operations, the other source said.

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It is being advised by Alantra Partners, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions are private.

There is no certainty that a deal will materialise and another bidder may yet buy the WiZink asset, they added.

A spokesperson said Novo Banco is constantly evaluating deal opportunities, but declined to comment on a tie-up with WiZink.

Alantra, Lone Star, Varde and WiZink declined to comment.

Reuters reported in September that Varde Partners had appointed Deutsche Bank to review strategic options for WiZink's Portuguese arm, which provides credit cards and smaller loans and originates from the former local operations of Barclays.

Novo Banco was formed in 2014 through the restructuring of Banco Espirito Santo, with the state still holding a 25% stake in Portugal's fourth-largest bank, which says it has a market share of nearly 10% and 43 billion euros in assets.

The Portuguese bank aims to be operationally ready next year for a potential initial public offering (IPO), its CEO Mark Bourke told Reuters last month. (Reporting by Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro and Andres Gonzalez in London; Editing by Elisa Martinuzzi and Alexander Smith)