Best Bank − Panama: Banco General

Nov 1, 2008

General Still Commands It has been over a year since Panama’s Banco General completed integration with Banco Comercial, creating a national champion with $7.2 billion in assets, 21% of the system’s private loans and 25% of local deposits. With HSBC still working to fully consolidate Banistmo, General still has a dominant position – for now. It is on this strength that the institution retains the title of LatinFinance Bank of the Year for Panama.


“It will be a tougher market going ahead, and costs are going to go up,” says Raul Alemán, General’s executive vice
 
president and general manager. Like most banks in the region, Panama’s did not suffer subprime losses, but they are exposed to the ensuing economic slump.  Alemán says the biggest negative impact has been on institutional lending, although that only accounts for 12% of General’s business.

Profitability is rising, with ROA and ROE at 3.25% and 30.45% as of mid-year, according to the banking regulator. This compares to 2.4% and 19.3%, respectively, at the end of 2007.


To fend off competition from powerful immigrants like HSBC and Citi, General must leverage a strong retail lending position to...

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