San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Venezuelan Bank Sets Sights on Costa Rica

The growing Venezuelan bank Banesco Banco Universal has fixed its sights on Costa Rica as part of its Central America expansion plan.

The bank, which has more than 400 branches in Venezuela, has already invested $50 million to set up shop in Panama, and is headed to Costa Rica and Guatemala next, the bank’s president Luis Davier Luján told the daily La República.

Already operating in the United States and Puerto Rico, the bank plans to spend some $141 million this year on its Central America expansion. The expansion will mean some 40 branches, several in Costa Rica, that will offer “community banking” services such as microcredits and credits for low-income sectors.

The announcement comes as part of a flood of multinational banking giants into Central America in recent years.

The largest financial conglomerate in the world, Citigroup, in December announced plans for a $1.5 billion buyout of Corporacion UBC Internacional S.A.’s 53 Grupo Cuscatlán subsidiaries (TT, Jan. 5).

That buyout came two months after Citigroup announced plans to buy out Grupo Financiero Uno, the largest credit card issuer in Central America.

In April 2005, GE Money bought out half of Grupo BAC’s stocks, which were unofficially worth about $500 million, the business weekly El Financiero reported.

Last June, Scotiabank announced it would buy out Corporacion Interfín for $293 million (TT, June 16, 2006). A month later HSBC bought out Banistmo for $1.7 billion.


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