Cross-border investments and acquisitions by banks occurred mainly between institutions in neighboring countries with linguistic or cultural similarities, according to a report by International Banker, a newsletter published by American Banker.

The newsletter said that, of the 65 fourth-quarter banking mergers, whose value totaled $17.6 billion, a little more than half involved banks in neighboring countries or banks in Western Europe merging with institutions in emerging markets-for example, German banks taking stakes in Polish banks or Spanish banks acquiring Latin American banks.

U.S. and European banks have also grown more interested in acquiring distressed institutions, the newsletter said, citing Citibank's acquisition of Banco Mayo; GE Capital's purchase of Korea First Bank; and a decision by Germany's West LB to buy an investment unit from Japan's failed Hokkaido Takushoku Bank Ltd.

According to Securities Data Co., the fourth-quarter total of financial institution mergers was down from $20.2 billion in the same quarter a year earlier.

Deutsche Bank's announcement that it was prepared to pay $10 billion for Bankers Trust Corp. accounted for more than half the fourth-quarter total.

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