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's nomination of former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo to its board may reflect the bank's anxiety that it could be forced to give up Banamex, its highly profitable Mexican banking subsidiary.

Mexican law prohibits foreign governments from owning its banks, and the U.S. remains a major stakeholder in Citigroup, owning roughly 27% of its common stock. The Mexican Supreme Court was set to begin deliberations on the issue Tuesday, according to an


published on Feb. 4 in El Semanario, a Mexican business publication. (I have linked to the article in Spanish because, the English version,


, is poorly translated, making it essentially unreadable.)

With Zedillo on its team, Citigroup may be able to lobby to keep Banamex, a highly prized asset that many banks around the world would love to get their hands on. Interested parties could include

JPMorgan Chase

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Banco Santander


, as an

an internal JPMorgan e-mail dating from June 2008

unearthed by

earlier this month shows.

Another example of the importance of Banamex to Citigroup can be seen in the recent promotion of former Banamex boss Manuel Medina-Mora to lead Citigroup's consumer banking business in North America. Medina-Mora is viewed as a possible successor to CEO Vikram Pandit.

A Citigroup spokesman declined to comment on whether the Zedillo appointment was related to the legal uncertainty over Citigroup's ownership of Banamex, and he could not immediately provide an update on the status of the Mexican Supreme Court case.


announced the nomination of Zedillo to its board on Friday

. Shareholders will vote on the nomination April 20.


Written by Dan Freed in New York