Comerica Inc., which has been doing business in Mexico since the 1960s, has joined the ranks of banks with offices there, opening one in Mexico City.

The office, headed by first vice president of global banking Claude H. Miller, is designed to better serve Comerica's portfolio of clients in 14 Mexican cities and to build on the Detroit-based bank's business in California and Texas.

"We've got a longstanding business relationship in Mexico and our portfolio there has been growing year by year," said Douglas A. Ransdell, senior vice president in charge of Comerica's international finance department. "We thought it was necessary to have people on location down there."

Comerica's customers in Mexico are, for the most part, mid-size and large Mexican companies, as well as companies from the United States and other countries that operate in Mexico. Some $750 million of Comerica's $1.2 billion in international loans last year were in Mexico.

The bank, which has $35 billion in total assets, does business in several of the top U.S. export states, including Michigan, Illinois, Texas, California, and Florida. These states account for some 70% of Mexico's foreign trade with the U.S., Comerica said.

Mr. Ransdell said the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement has fueled business with Mexico. And the peso's devaluation late last year made opening the office even cheaper.

"With an operation in Mexico," Mr. Ransdell said, "Comerica is better equipped to offer integrated North American solutions to the needs of our customers."

Analysts called the decision to open the Mexico City office a wise one. They said Comerica, rather than attempting to become a key player in Mexico, appears to be positioning itself to expand its customer base in Texas and California, where business crosses the border. Comerica has been working especially hard to build a stronger presence in Houston and Dallas.

"In light of all the turmoil in Mexico and the shakeout in the financial services sector the timing down there might really be opportune," said Michael Moran, an analyst with Roney & Co. in Detroit.

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