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Brazil broker Avenue aims for 1 million clients after Itau deal

FILE PHOTO: Man is reflected in an Itau branch window in Rio de Janeiro

By Gabriel Araujo

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian brokerage Avenue Holdings Inc expects to reach the 1 million customer mark soon, an executive said, after Brazil's largest private lender Itau Unibanco agreed to acquire a stake in the firm.

Avenue, which offers Brazilian investors access to foreign markets, currently has 600,000 clients following steady growth of its customer base, chief marketing officer Alexandre Reis told Reuters in an interview.

"We'll reach 1 million in the near future," Reis said, without offering a more detailed timeline.

Itau in July agreed to pay 493 million reais ($94 million) for a 35% stake in Avenue, which is also backed by Japan's SoftBank.

The deal will allow the lender to move to a controlling stake of 50.1% after two years and exercise a call option for the remaining equity held by other Avenue shareholders after five years.

Reis said that an initial public offering (IPO) may also be possible for the brokerage, though he did not provide any details or timeframe.

Several Brazilian financial firms have listed in the United States in recent years, including online broker XP, lenders NuBank and Banco Inter, and payment processors PagSeguro and StoneCo.

Avenue's deal with Itau got the nod from technical staff at Brazilian antitrust regulator Cade last month, and the companies have set up working groups to prepare their integration, Reis said.

The broker currently offers Brazilian clients access to some 8,000 foreign assets, including equities, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs and cryptocurrencies.

After a stock market rout that has knocked the S&P 500 index about 18% lower so far this year, Avenue sees Brazilians more interested in investing in fixed income abroad.

The company is also set to launch next month its margin account Avenue Pro, which will allow lending to investors using deposits in the account as collateral.

($1 = 5.2329 reais)

(Reporting by Gabriel Araujo; editing by Richard Pullin)