operating as a credit bureau in that country. The news last week was expected and came on the heels of Trans Union Corp. receiving similar word on Oct. 23 from the government to establish a credit bureau with the largest Mexican banks. Trans Union's operation was the subject of far more government scrutiny, because the Chicago-based credit bureau will share ownership of the new bureau with an association of Mexican banks. Among the government's concerns were antitrust issues. The credit bureau will likely be named Trans Union de Mexico. Atlanta-based Equifax opened an office in Mexico City in August 1994, forming relationships with lenders doing business there and laying the groundwork for establishing a data center. It has also been collecting credit information from some American companies with operations in Mexico, like American Express, General Electric, and Citibank. The company, however, has not decided where the credit bureau will be located in Mexico. According to Mexican regulations, credit bureaus have six months in which to begin operations after the government approves their applications. Datacredit, a joint venture between TRW Information Systems and Services and prominent Mexican entrepreneur Pablo Gerber, is the only operational credit bureau in Mexico. The Guadalajara-based bureau began providing credit reports in August and is just now beginning to collect data from medium-sized banks. The economic crisis in Mexico has slowed the progress of these start-up credit bureaus. But John T. Rougeou, president of Equifax Information Credit Services, remains upbeat about the company's prospects there. "We know that the economy will survive and we are banking on it being a good one," despite the fact that doing business there "has been a struggle." Of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, is the most internationally oriented. It has operations in 14 countries, with credit bureaus in Argentina, the United Kingdom, Spain, Chile, Canada, and Portugal. It is also considering opportunities in the Asia Pacific region and in other countries in Latin America. Mr. Rougeou said that Equifax will be much more than a credit bureau in Mexico. "We view Mexico as a good base to introduce other services like consulting and modeling," he said. Mr. Rougeou pointed out that government approval in Mexico is not needed to establish some of these other businesses, including merchant card processing and collection companies. One executive close to the credit bureau market in Mexico said that he was "not convinced yet that Equifax will start a full credit bureau." If it does, he said, it will be of peripheral importance to Equifax. Furthermore, he believes that Mexico, a relatively small market, will not be able to sustain three credit bureaus, particularly while the economy remains weak.
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