Looking Beyond the Horizon

Sep 1, 2005

Vast oil wealth has made Trinidad & Tobago the Caribbean's financial center, but limited opportunities at home are driving banks offshore.

Trinidad & Tobago's financial industry is in ferment. Recently, insurance company Guardian Holdings launched a TT$400 million ($63.8 million) rights issue, Royal Bank of Trinidad & Tobago (RBTT) has expanded into Central America and the republic won an upgrade to A- from Standard & Poor's. New York investment banks have largely turned their backs on the region. But Trinidadian firms – as well as a handful from Barbados and Jamaica – are on the acquisition trail. In 2003, RBTT stepped into the Spanish-speaking Caribbean with its purchase of the Dominican Republic's Banco Mercantil for just $1. Mercantil was one of three banks that collapsed during the Dominican Republic's financial crisis of 2002-2003. RBTT expanded into Barbados last June with the acquisition of Caribbean Commercial Bank for an undisclosed price. It entered Costa Rica this July, opening an office in San José. Jamaica's National Commercial Bank (NCB) was taken over by Canadian...

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“The crisis has been a setback for reserve diversification."

Jan Dehn, Ashmore Investment Management