M&A activity and strong performance has generated a swathe of new arrivals – and dropouts – in The Banker’s Top 100 Latin American listing.Latin banks as a whole managed a relatively strong year in 2002 despite a sputtering US recovery, uncertain financial markets and contagion from the Argentine collapse allied to fears about Brazil’s new government. In terms of Tier One capital, the cut-off point for entering the Top 100 rose to $58m, as compared to $45m last year, while pre-tax profits came in at $8244bn and total assets were $605,750bn.

Mexico’s BBVA Bancomer made it to the number one slot from number four last year, with a 33% increase in Tier One Capital to $3742m, while one of the highest climbers was Banco Santander Chile which rose to 11th place from 24th thanks to its merger with local Banco Santiago.

There were quite a few departures from the list on the back of mergers or drops in Tier One Capital. Banco Mercantil de Săo Paolo became a wholly owned subsidiary of Banco Bradesco while Banco Cidade was also acquired by Bradesco. As the big got bigger in Brazil, some smaller banks dropped off the list due to falling capital: Banco BBM and Banco Mercantil.

Argentine casualties

The economic disaster in Argentina was naturally to blame for some of the disappearances from the list, with Banco General de Negocios being liquidated and three banks with too-small capital – Banco CMF, Banco BI Creditanstalt and Banco Mariva – falling out of the range of the Top 100. Banco Atlantida of Honduras, Banco Sudamericano of Peru and Banco Nacional de Bolivia all suffered the same fate. On the positive side, Banco Edwards merged with Banco de Chile in January 2002.

There is a whole new set of entrants to the Top 100 Latin Americans, with a number of banks providing figures for the first time or turning around bad performances. An example of the former is Banco Popular de Ahorro from Cuba. It is one of the more interesting examples as it is the bank which will undoubtedly grab the attention of foreign banks wanting to participate in the retail market if the current regime falls and takeovers are allowed (see The Banker, June 2002).

Also providing figures for the first time were Banco de Costa Rica, BBVA Panamá, Banco Continental de Panamá, Caja de Ahorros of Panamá and Banco Security of Chile.

Hitting the target

In the second instance, banks that are now registering a profit and have been included in the list are Bancafé de Bogotá, sanitised by the government and up for sale, as well as Banco Santander Colombia, which is overcoming the problem of investing in the country at the wrong time (see The Banker, May 2003). Other banks that have made it onto the list are: Banco de Reservas de la República Dominicana at 63, Banco Salvadoreńo at number 81, ABN Amro Bank in Chile at number 90 and Banco Interfin of Costa Rica at number 98.

Year 2003 is shaping up to be a slightly better one than 2002, even though the forecast GDP growth of only 2.4% (excluding Venezuela) after a two-year recession is a lot less than the region needs to deal with record unemployment, low commodity prices and only a modest recovery in private capital flows from the record lows of 2002.

However, some banks are becoming cannier at dealing with the uncertainties of operating in volatile environments, while others are seeing consolidation yield an improvement in their performance.

To view the full ranking, please purchase the print edition of The Banker.

New entrants

Banco Popular de Ahorro (Cuba)

Primer Banco del Istmo (Panamá)

Banco de Costa Rica

Banco de Reservas de la República Dominica

BBVA Panamá

Banco Continental de Panamá

Banco Security (Chile)

Caja de Ahorros (Panamá)

Banco Salvadoreń

Banco Santander Colombia

Bancafe de Bogotá (COLOMBIA)

ABN AMRO Bank (Chile)



Banco Interfin (Costa Rica)


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