Italy's San Paolo IMI (#Sanpaolo#) expects to open a representation office in Mexico in the next couple of weeks following regulatory approval, Giuseppe Cuccurese, Sanpaolo EVP responsible for operations in the Americas, told BNamericas.com.
The Mexican representation office will mark the final step of the bank's expansion in Latin America, he said. Sanpaolo has been present in Sao Paulo, Brazil for many years and opened representation offices in Buenos Aires, Argentina last year and in Santiago, Chile this year.
In the short term, Sanpaolo does not plan to open additional offices in the region because its existing presence in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Chile will be responsible for pursuing opportunities in neighboring countries, Cuccurese explained. Sanpaolo Argentina will keep an eye on the Uruguayan market, while the Chilean office will be responsible for Peru, he said.
Sanpaolo will focus on the corporate banking segment, in which it will offer a wide range of financial services to multinational companies and large local companies, in addition to the local subsidiaries of Italian groups, Cuccurese said.
The bank will stay out of the retail segment in Latin America because one of its main shareholders, Spain's #BSCH# (NYSE: STD), already has a very strong retail presence in the region, he said. Sanpaolo and BSCH have signed a Latin American cooperation agreement to take advantage of synergies.
Sanpaolo has lent US$400mn-500mn in the region and plans to gradually increase its lending volume, Currurese said. The bank wants to grow its Latin American operations, but with a conservative approach, in line with the economic growth of its target markets, he added.
Latin America represents a "minimal" part of Sanpaolo's total operations and the bank's main focus will remain Europe, and Italy in particular. However, increasing commercial activity between Latin America and Europe, as well as the introduction of the Euro as an alternative currency to the US dollar, will add importance to Latin American operations, Currurese concluded.