Mexico to Sell 2 More Banks To Investors

WASHINGTON - Mexico is nearly half finished returning 18 state-run commercial banks to private ownership, according to the country's secretary of finance and public credit.

Two more banks will be sold to Mexican acquirers in the next six weeks, bringing to nine the bank privatizations since May, Pedro Aspe Armella said in a brief interview on Wednesday following a speech to the annual convention of the International Organization of Securities Commissions.

The nine privatized banks hold 70% of Mexico's banking assets. They include the largest, Banco Nacional de Mexico, or Banamex, with $16.5 billion in assets.

A 30% Limit

The remaining nine banks to be privatized were acquired by the government in 1982 amid a crippling foreign debt crisis.

The 1990 law that set the sales in motion limited foreign ownership in any Mexican bank to 30%. That restriction, along with Mexico's refusal to swap its debt for equity in the banks, dampened foreign banks' initial willingness to invest.

Asked whether any U.S. investors have renewed their interest in the banks, Mr. Aspe replied, "None yet." But he indicated that could change as Mexico proceeds with its economic reform, which emphasizers foreign investment. Mexican bank owners can sell minority stakes to foreigners, he noted.

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