Spain’s two leading lenders, Banco Santander and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, have long looked to Latin America for growth – and more recently to repair troubled balance sheets at home.

But while Santander has hitched its fortunes on Brazil — now its biggest market, accounting for 26 per cent of group profits last year — BBVA has focused on building up its operations in Mexico. Just last month it announced plans to funnel $3.5bn into its Mexico business over the next three years, and the country last year accounted for more than one-third of its global profits. Read more

Grupo Sura of Colombia has acquired a 50 per cent stake in Peru’s BBVA Horizonte pension fund for $514m.

Sura, which snapped up ING’s Latin American pensions assets in 2011 for $3.85bn and already controls another Peruvian pension fund, Integra, named Profuturo AFP, controlled by Scotiabank, as its strategic partner in the deal. Read more

Spanish bank BBVA on Thursday joined a wave of optimism surrounding Mexico’s growth prospects as it announced the biggest investment by its Latin American subsidiary to date.

The bank, which has been hit by recession in its home market, said that it would funnel $3.5bn into its BBVA Bancomer Mexico arm over the next three years – $1.3bn to upgrade bank branches, $1.5bn in new technology and the remaining $700m on its corporate headquarters in Mexico City.

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It was bound to happen, it seems. BBVA said earlier this week that it is to sell its Colombian pension fund management business, AFP Horizonte, for about $530m.

The buyer will be no other than the local AFP Porvenir, the retirement business leg of Colombia’s powerful banking group, Grupo Aval. This continues with the trend started last year by one of Grupo Aval’s main competitors, Colombia’s Grupo Sura, which paid $3.6n for the regional assets of Dutch bancassurer ING Groep. Read more

Spain’s BBVA has agreed to sell its Mexican pension fund to local buyers for $1.6bn, the latest in a line of local asset sale by retreating Europeans.

Grupo Financiero Banorte, the only major bank that is Mexican-owned and Mexico’s Social Security Institute, known as IMSS, will share the cost for Afore Bancomer – as the pension fund unit is called – equally. Read more

Spanish bankers have a lot on their plates at the moment but the chief executive of BBVA took time this week to drop into Taipei to inaugurate the bank’s first branch office.

Taipei is a more optimistic place than Madrid but even emerging markets, especially exporters like Taiwan, are feeling the global slowdown. The bank’s business in Taiwan will grow, the chairman said, but not necessarily quickly. Read more

The times when Latin America provided the Kingdom of Spain with all the gold and silver it could spend are long over.

But for two of Spain’s largest banks, BBVA and Santander, Latin America anno 2012 increasingly functions the way the continent’s gold and silver mines did more than 400 years ago: as a base of support and defence at a time of insecurity in Spain.  Read more