Spain’s big banks show their commitment to Latin America

Spanish banks have cause to remember with gratitude how, during the choppy years of Europe’s financial crisis, it was profits from subsidiaries in Latin America that helped keep them afloat.

So today, as retail banks across Latam face an economic storm of rising risk and cash-strapped account holders, Spanish banks appear ready to increase their commitment to a region that recently threw them a lifeline and with which they have historic ties.

But big US and UK banks, which only recently had big ambitions for Latam, are responding to the region’s economic travails by heading for the exits, triggering a bout of dealmaking.
Santander, the biggest Spanish bank by assets, is eyeing up the Latam retail operations of New York’s Citigroup. In February, Citi said it would offload retail banking and credit card operations in Argentina, Brazil and Colombia, valued at about $6bn.
It follows Citi’s agreed sales of its operations in Peru, Panama and Costa Rica to Scotiabank of Canada, and of those in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua to local institutions.

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