Zurich Financial Services Group says it has signed a definitive agreement with Banco Santander SA to buy a majority interest in the bank’s Latin America insurance operations.

The Zurich, Switzerland-based insurer says the agreement is “materially unchanged from what was announced” on Feb. 22.

The carrier went on to say that it and Madrid, Spain-based Banco Santander expect the transaction to be completed before the end of this year.

Earlier this year, Zurich announced it signed a 25-year distribution agreement with Banco Santander where it would acquire 51 percent of the bank’s insurance business in Latin America and Santander would keep the remaining 49 percent.

Zurich will pay Santander $1.67 billion in a combination cash and financed deal for its book of business.

The insurer will have access to 5,600 bank branches and an additional 36 million customers in five South American countries.

Thirty percent of the business is general insurance, primarily homeowners’ insurance, and the bulk of the rest is in life products.

In 2010, Santander’s Latin American insurance operations delivered a net profit of $328 million.

Zurich says the deal would make the company the sixth-largest non-life insurer in the region, increasing its market share in the region to 3 percent. Once complete, Zurich will become the third-largest life insurer in the region and the fourth-largest insurer overall in Latin America.