By Jesús Aguado and Emma Pinedo
MADRID, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Santander will analyse a potential acquisition of Citigroup's retail operations in Mexico, the Spanish bank's chairman Ana Botin said on Wednesday, though the business can grow quickly in the country on its own.
Santander has expanded in emerging economies in search of faster growth than in its core markets in Europe, where it is cutting costs to cope with ultra low interest rates.
"We do not need to buy to generate a very attractive and profitable growth (in Mexico) but Mexico is one of our core markets and when the process begins, which is months away, we expect to be part of that process," Botin told analysts during a conference call.
Botin said she expected the Banamex sale process in Mexico to be long and potentially kick off in the third quarter.
Santander recently increased its stake in its unit Santander Mexico to 96.2% from 91.6% for about $385 million after expiration of the tender offer acceptance period.
Regarding potential acquisitions, including Banamex, as Citi's unit is called, Botin said the bank was not considering issuing new shares "in case we do something inorganic."
As part of its remuneration policy the bank is buying back shares.
In the fourth quarter, net profit in Mexico increased by more than 36% to 233 million euros, accounting for 10% of the bank's overall profit. Net interest lending income in Mexico rose 4.1%.
Santander's unit in Mexico ended 2021 with an underlying return on tangible equity (ROTE) of 13.91% compared to 12.73% at Santander's group level.
(Reporting by Jesús Aguado and Emma Pinedo; editing by Inti Landauro, Elaine Hardcastle)