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Citigroup-Banamex: Failed US Banks vs. Soild Mexican Institutions

Does the US government’s 36 per cent stake in Citi violate Mexican ownership laws? Have we got our countries confused? No. Citi owns Banamex, a Mexican bank with circa 1,200 branches and 2.6m checking accounts. And Latin American finance blog Inca Kola sees a fight brewing over the Southern subsidiary:

The nub of the issue revolves around Mexican law, which states in crystalline manner that foreign governments cannot own more than 10% of any bank that operates inside Mexico. It’s as clear as a bell and on the statute. So as Banamex is a wholly owned subsidiary of Citigroup (C paid $12.1Bn or so back in 2001 for the bank) if the US Gov’t takes its 36% stake in Citigroup then it will be a larger-than-10% shareholder of Banamex, something against Mexican law. Won’t it?

Mexico’s National Banking ans Securities Commission is therefore investigating, while Banamex is saying that the North American Free Trade Agreement will (somehow) protect it.

Selling Banamex would effectively mean an even worse deal for the US government. The unit’s been described by Citi as one of its “crown jewels”, managing to post an $896m net profit for 2008, making it one of the least toxic parts of the banking group. Banamex is accordingly part of Citicorp — the retail (read: non-toxic) part of the Citi empire. Full Article click here.

Source: FT Alphaville 02.03.2009, Inca Kola News 01.03.2009

Mexico Gov. Studying Effect on Banamex of U.S. Aid to Citi,

(Bloomberg) Mexico’s National Banking and Securities commission said it’s studying the legal impact of the U.S. government’s stake in Citigroup Inc., which owns Grupo Financiero Banamex SA.

The U.S. government announced today it plans to convert as much as $25 billion of preferred shares of Citigroup into common stock. The conversion would give the U.S. a 36 percent stake in the New York-based company. Mexico’s banking law prohibits foreign governments from owning or having a stake in banks that operate in Mexico, like Banamex. Citigroup purchased Banamex for $12.5 billion in 2001.

The commission has asked all banks operating in Mexico that have received help from governments to provide information on the aid, the statement said. The banking commission and other financial authorities will “soon” release information on the study, the body said in a statement.

“The Mexican financial authorities are analyzing the legal implications of the aid that foreign governments have granted foreign financial entities that have subsidiaries in Mexico,” the agency said.

Speculation has mounted in recent weeks that Citigroup may sell Banamex to raise cash and shore up capital amid the global financial crisis. Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit flew to Mexico Feb. 19 for two days of meetings with clients, Banamex officials and government officials, including Finance Minister Agustin Carstens and central bank Governor Guillermo Ortiz.

Citigroup fell 96 cents, or 39 percent, to $1.50 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading as a record 1.87 billion shares changed hands. The stock has plummeted 94 percent in the past year.

Source: Bloomberg 27.02.2009 Andres R. Martinez in Mexico City at amartinez28@bloomberg.net

Mexican Bank Asset Value

(IXE) According to local newspaper EL UNIVERSAL columnist Alberto Aguilar, ITAU is one of the government’s favorite candidates to acquire Citigroup’s BANAMEX if they have a minority stake in a group led by Mexican investors.Other candidates that have expressed interest are JP Morgan Chase and HSBC.

IXE understands that if Citibank sells Banamex, it will likely sell its BZ.Bradesco branch as well. Due to the fact that Banamex ranks in second in Mexico (assets) and first (equity), along with an important corporate loans book, while the BZ subsidiary present loans book smaller than the ones presented by mid-size banks, and with a lower ROE, which could be higher considering its BZ peers. Furthermore, Citibank BZ does not present important market share in any particular segment in Brazil.

Banamex instead, possess a significant Mexican banking market (see file attached). This would be a very important operation for Itau if it materializes. We believe foreign players could be potential acquirers of Banamex (including Itau) because local players could end up having problems to find funding to finance the operation in the future. If Itau buys Banamex, it will be coherent with Itau’s Roberto Setubal past speeches.

The following is a table of the size of Mexican Banks (Tot. Assets 2Q08 in billion US$)

US$ 53.4 bn BBVA Bancomer
US$ 38.9 bn Banamex
US$ 31.5 bn Santander
US$ 26.8 bn HSBC
US$ 21.0 bn Bannorte
US$ 12.7 bn Inbursa
US$ 10.0 bn Scotia

Source: IXE Casa de Bolsa, 28.01.2009

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