Brazil's three largest private sector banks together control 30% of the Brazilian banking system's $437 billion in assets. Banco Bradesco, Banco Itaú and Unibanco are large by regional standards, but the government still owns Banco do Brasil, the country's financial heavyweight. Bradesco may be one of the largest private sector banks in Latin America with its $47.55 billion asset base, but its clout pales alongside Banco do Brasil, which has almost $60 billion in assets.
Still, Brazil's financial system is among the most sophisticated and profitable in the developing world. No major bank in Latin America can approach Banco Itaú in terms of sheer profitability - it turned in a pretax income of $1.75 billion last year against $1.25 billion in 2002 with a return on equity of 26%. In a country that still relies heavily on bank financing, as opposed to capital markets, the big banks are powerful...
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