Private sector bankers oppose state-run lender stepping up mortgage loans

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Private sector bankers in Panama are opposed to state-run Caja de Seguro Social's (CSS) plan to step up its focus on the mortgage loan market, according to a report in local financial daily Capital Financiero.

CSS has a mortgage loan portfolio of US$35mn and is planning to boost this business by issuing US$20mn in loans a year to reach a portfolio of US$80mn in the next four years, the report said. The plan is aimed at offsetting low returns on financial instruments, such as interbank loans.

CSS does not have the resources nor the staff to offer attractive mortgage loans to consumers, said Rolando de León Alba, treasurer of Panamanian banking association ABP.

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Roberto Brenes, general manager of the country's stock exchange, is also opposed to CSS' mortgage plan and noted that there are financial instruments in the local market with similar returns as mortgage loans.

Two other state-owned lenders, Banco Nacional de Panamá (BNP) and Caja de Ahorros, are already large players in the mortgage market. Together they rank second in terms of mortgage loans, after Banco General and ahead of HSBC Panama.