CHICAGO - Shifting demographics have made a Chicago community bank the acquisition target of an aggressive Puerto Rican banking company.

Last week, a senior official of Banponce Corp., San Juan, confirmed reports that the bank was considering the acquisition of Pioneer Bank and Trust Co., Chicago.

"We have talked to [Banponce] and other people as well," said S. Michael Polanski, Pioneer's president.

"Our hope is that it [the acquisition] happens in 1993," Jorge Marchand, Banponce senior vice president, said last week.

Demograqphics a Factor

While it might seem surprising that a Puerto Rico-based bank would buy a small community bank, a quick glance at Pioneer's community demographics offers some explanation.

Hispanics accounted for 44% of the population in Pioneer's Humboldt Park neighborhood, according to the Community Lending Fact Book, published by the Woodstock Institute, a Chicago firm that tracks lending patterns.

"Usually we like to enter new markets going through the Hispanic market first," said Roberto Herencia, senior vice president and chief of credit in the United States.

Greater U.S. Presence Sought

Banco Popular, with assets of $10.5 billion. has been aggressively expanding in the United States. At the end of 1992, it operated 30 branches in New York City, one in Chicago, and one in Los Angeles.

"We have been trying to expand our presence in the U.S. market." said Mr. Herencia, who is based in Chicago. "Illinois is a place we have been looking into."

Pioneer is a healthy bank with one branch. Return on average assets was about 0.90% at the first half of the year, said Mr. Polanski, president of the 80-year-old bank.

Numerous Acquisitions Made

The average return on assets for community banks was 1.25% for the first quarter of the year. Over the last three years, Banponce has made numerous acquisitions of branches from the Resolution Trust Corp. and from the Israel-based Bank Leumi. Banponce also gained a number of New York branches when it acquired Banco de Ponce in 1990.

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