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A Giant Moves In

Aug 1, 2006

In one fell swoop, HSBC has become a large Central American bank through its purchase of Panamanian financial powerhouse Banistmo.

HSBC's $1.77 billion all-cash purchase of Panama-based financial group Banistmo has stealthily inserted the world's No. 3 bank into an oft-overlooked corner of Latin America, a region it first set out to conquer in 1997 with the purchase of assets in Brazil and Argentina. Banistmo has operations in five Central American countries and a small presence in Colombia. Its base, in Panama City, has strong economic prospects thanks to a planned expansion of the Panama Canal.

After the global banking consolidation of the last decade, there are thinner profit margins in the US and Europe. And so, opening new banking frontiers is critical to growth for HSBC. The bank's revenue is already growing twice as fast in Latin America as in Europe and North America. "At HSBC, we believe that most growth in demand for financial services will take place in emerging economies in the...

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