Mexican Bankers Say They'll Pull Through Financial Crisis
Mar. 17, 1995
NEW YORK (AP) _ The next three months will be the toughest for Mexico's banks, but most will endure their nation's economic crisis, Mexican banking leaders said Thursday.
The government's bank stabilization plan will keep most afloat despite an inevitable surge in bad loans and lack of liquidity after the peso's devaluation and subsequent high interest rates and inflation.
Banco Nacional de Mexico, Bancomer and Banca Serfin are Mexico's three largest banks and hold 60 percent of total Mexican banking assets.
Several foreign and a few U.S. banks, meanwhile, have been talking with the Mexican government about acquiring banks that may flounder during the crisis, bankers attending a briefing said.
Under new government rules, foreign banks may own up to 100 percent of Mexican banks that control less than 6 percent of the market.
NationsBank Corp., based in Charlotte, N.C., and BankAmerica Corp., based in San Francisco, have been involved in the talks, said Manuel Medina Mora, deputy president of Banco Nacional de Mexico. Both banks have subsidiaries in Texas.
NationsBank and BankAmerica declined comment. NationsBank has applied for a banking license in Mexico, and BankAmerica recently received one, officials said.
The Mexican government has already bailed out three moderately sized banks, and officials said they expect more banks, particularly smaller ones, to require rescue. Deposits are insured through a government fund similar to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
``Most will pull through,'' said Hector Rangel, deputy chief executive of Bancomer S.A.
Key to their survival is a segment of the Mexican government's economic rescue plan that allows banks to restructure commercial loans for constrained borrowers and convert them to loans indexed to inflation. Such a plan will reduce interest payments. The loans will have maturities ranging from 5 to 12 years.
The government has set aside 86 billion pesos for the restructurings, enough to cover 15 percent of all bank loans. About 7.5 percent of all bank loans were past due at Dec. 31, and Rangel said he expects the level to increase to at least 8.5 percent by March 31.
The program should provide a cushion for borrowers _ mostly small and medium-sized companies _ faced with interest rates hovering at 100 percent, thus preserving the quality of bank loans, Rangel said.
The government is also expected to announce soon that the inflation-index loans will be available for mortgage loans and some foreign currency domestic debts.
``If companies can meet their obligations we have a better chance of coping with the crisis,'' Rangel said.