UPDATE 1-Citigroup puts Brazil consumer finance unit up for sale-source
* Banks were given access to data room, source says
* Citigroup to exit non-core assets to raise cash
SAO PAULO, March 7 (Reuters) - Citigroup Inc put its consumer finance units in Brazil up for sale, a source with knowledge of the situation told Reuters on Thursday, in a deal that might fetch the New York-based bank as much as 1.5 billion reais ($761 million).
The source, who declined to be identified by name because the process is private, said potential bidders had been given access to a data room to analyze both companies, which are known as Credicard and Credicard Financiamentos.
According to newspaper Valor Econômico, Banco Santander Brasil SA and Banco Bradesco SA may consider placing bids for the companies. The sale could be concluded by the end of March, in time to book proceeds from the transaction in Citigroup's quarterly earnings.
With the sale, Citigroup could be making progress in a longstanding plan to exit non-core business areas in key markets.
On the other hand, a purchase of Credicard could help bulk up the card business of Brazil's private-sector banks.
Credicard has more than 7 million clients. The brand is also associated with the issuance of credit cards, which could attract a different type of player in the banking system, analysts said.
In 2006, Citigroup paid 280 million reais ($139 million) for the 50 percent that it did not already own of Credicard, buying out its longtime partner, Banco Itaú Holding Financiera SA .
Bradesco and Santander declined to comment on the report, and spokespeople at Citigroup were not immediately available for comment.