BankBoston Corp. moved to re-inforce its Latin American stronghold by announcing an agreement to acquire Deutsche Bank's consumer businesses in Argentina for $250 million.
The cash deal, announced Monday and expected to close in the first quarter of 1998, would add $2.6 billion to BankBoston's $5 billion-asset Argentine subsidiary.
BankBoston has been doing business in Argentina, a hub of its extensive Latin American presence, for 80 years. In August the company said it planned to add 70 locations in the interior of Argentina to the 44 it operates in the country.
BankBoston has more than 90 offices and 5,000 employees in Latin America.
Deutsche Bank Argentina, owned by the largest bank in Germany and second-largest in the world, has 48 branches, mostly in the capital, Buenos Aires. A BankBoston spokeswoman said some are likely to be closed where Deutsche Bank's offices overlap with BankBoston's.
Analysts said the deal demonstrates the degree to which $66.1 billion- asset BankBoston is staking its future on a region where American institutions suffered great losses only a decade ago.
"You have to go where your strengths are," said George Bicher, bank analyst at BT Alex. Brown. "They are great in Boston but they don't have much of a platform in the U.S. outside of there. But they do have the platform in Latin America to grow from."
BankBoston is buying from Deutsche Bank only retail businesses-consumer banking, credit cards, mortgages, and small-business lending. These are considered strong growth areas as Latin American countries move to privatize industries, build capital markets, and create more economic stability.
The German-owned bank said it has 100,000 retail and middle-market customers in Argentina.
BankBoston is not buying corporate lending, pension fund, insurance, and investment banking units. This means it should be less exposed to the international corporate loans that caused trouble for U.S. banks in the 1980s.
A week ago, BankBoston chief executive officer Charles K. Gifford told a Montgomery Securities conference in San Francisco that he sees the bank's future in Latin America. He said prices for American commercial and investment banks are too high.
In a statement on the Deutsche Bank deal, Mr. Gifford said "strategy demands that we direct our capital toward those opportunities that offer the best potential to cross-sell our products and services and leverage our global brand and expertise."
BankBoston may be getting a relative bargain. It did not disclose the book value of the Deutsche Bank assets, but people close to the deal estimated it at $150 million. The $250 million price would be 1.66 times book, whereas recent domestic bank deals have exceeded 3.0.
Peter Thorne, European bank analyst at Paribas Capital Markets, London, said Deutsche Bank decided to sell assets deemed not part of the core business, which is increasingly large-corporate oriented.
"That's a common strategy in America," he said, "but it's new in Germany."
Deutsche Bank has spent heavily in recent years to build its Morgan Grenfell investment banking business.
Investment bankers and analysts said the transaction with BankBoston is a sign that the forces of consolidation are affecting Latin America too.
"There have been a number of acquisitions in Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil by outsiders" like Banco Santander and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya of Spain and London-based HSBC Holdings, said Salomon Brothers analyst Diane Glossman. Salomon advised BankBoston on its transaction.
"BankBoston wanted to maintain the position they've had for a long time," the analyst said.
Sources said Deutsche Bank Argentina has agreed to add to loan loss reserves if, during due diligence, BankBoston determines additional reserves are needed.
In an effort to avoid some of the problems Swiss banks have faced, BankBoston said has examined Deutsche Bank Argentina to ensure its assets and liabilities are "not associated in any way with wartime activities." Deutsche has agreed to assume responsibility for Holocaust-tinged assets or liabilities if they come to light.