HSBC's Southern Exposure

Oct 1, 2002

With the purchase of Grupo Bital, HSBC finally has the anchor it has wanted in Mexico for several years.Meanwhile, the feisty Bital is getting a much-needed boost to its balance sheet.

Grupo Financiero Bital, one of Mexico's last important, locally owned banks, could have easily ended up in the hands of Dutch or Spanish owners. It spent the first half of 2002 negotiating a $200 million recapitalization plan with ING of the Netherlands and fielding overtures from Santander Central Hispano of Spain for an outright acquisition. In the end however, it was yet another foreigner, London-based HSBC Holdings, that offered the best deal for the cash-strapped Bital. In August, just a month after negotiations began, HSBC plunked down $1.14 billion in cash for the bank, plus a promise of hundreds of millions more to meet the Mexican government's December deadline for Bital to complete its recapitalization program. Bital's controlling shareholder, Mexico's Berrondo family, which owns 54% of the bank, and Santander Central Hispano, which owns 26.6%, will tender their shares in a deal expected to close in...

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