SAO PAULO - JPMorgan Chase & Co, the second largest U.S. lender by assets, is in talks to buy a stake in Brazilian hedge fund and private equity firm Gavea, Valor Economico newspaper reported on Thursday, citing two people with direct knowledge of the situation.

JPMorgan would buy an undetermined stake in Gavea, founded by former Brazilian central bank chief Arminio Fraga, through Highbridge Capital Management, a hedge fund company that manages alternative investments for the New York-based bank, Valor said, without elaborating.

Gavea was formed by Fraga, who is also a member of JPMorgan's international board, shortly after he departed from the central bank in early 2003. The Rio de Janeiro-based firm oversees $5.8 billion in assets in activities that include wealth management, hedge funds and private equity, Valor added.

Under terms of the agreement, Fraga and Gavea's management would stay as partners and act with greater autonomy, Valor said.

Fraga was traveling outside of Rio and could not immediately be reached for comment, his assistant told Reuters by phone. No other Gavea directors were available for comment when reached by Reuters.

Mary Sedarat, a JPMorgan spokeswoman, told Valor the bank will not comment on market speculation. The lender bought control of Highbridge, which manages about $21 billion of assets, in 2004.

(Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)