(Adds COO comments on new fund)
SAO PAULO, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Brazilian investment bank Banco BTG Pactual SA tapped a veteran BlackRock Inc portfolio manager as its new head of equity funds and said it plans to launch a new Latin America-focused fund.
Will Landers, who left BlackRock in January, will join BTG Pactual as a partner, starting March 18, replacing José Zitelmann, who it said is leaving "to pursue other professional projects."
São Paulo-based analysts Andrea Cardia and Andrea Weinberg, who left BlackRock together with Landers, will also join the company. Landers oversaw $2 billion in assets.
BTG Pactual Asset Management's Chief Operations Officer Allan Hadid said in an interview on Monday that in addition to overseeing all of its equity funds, Landers will directly manage a fund dedicated to Latin America assets.
Although the company has portfolio managers in Brazil, Chile and Mexico, it does not currently offer clients an equity fund with a Latin America-wide strategy.
"We believe that Latin America is in a favorable moment in terms of growth prospects for a focused fund," Hadid said.
The fund will be open to investments in April, he said, declining to give a target for assets under management.
BTG Pactual's asset management unit has 184 billion reais ($49.28 billion) under management. Roughly 9.5 billion reais is in equity funds, according to fund industry association Anbima.
The Landers hiring underscores how BTG Pactual is regaining steam after a Brazilian federal judge acquitted its founder Andre Esteves of corruption charges in July.
Esteves stepped back from his management role and the bank was forced to cut jobs and shed assets. Its shares hit a nearly two-year high on Friday. ($1 = 3.7338 reais) (Reporting by Carolina Mandl; Editing by Franklin Paul and Jeffrey Benkoe)