U.S. banks, overcoming a long-standing reluctance to put cash on the table to buy companies in Latin America, are stepping up the pace of their deals.

Brazilian banking regulators last week approved American Express Bank Ltd.'s offer to buy Banco SRL and authorized NationsBank Corp. to bid for Banco Liberal. Citicorp recently bought Banca Confia in Mexico, and BankBoston Corp. agreed to buy Deutsche Bank's Argentine retail and middle- market operations.

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