The Brazilian arm of French retailer Carrefour has said it is to open an in-house bank in 2004.

The retailer, which is the second-largest food retailer in Brazil in terms of sales, said it has applied to the Central Bank for permission to allow its credit card operation CACC to make loans.

"We believe rates will drop ... And, with the level of efficiency a company of our scale has, the chances are high that interest rates will fall for clients," Eric Reiss, finance director at Carrefour, was quoted by Reuters as saying.  

If the Central Bank approves Carrefour's plans, consumers will also be able to use Carrefour's store card in stores owned by other companies.