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Emerging markets 250 2003: A world of difference

The performances that underlie this year's listing of the 250 biggest emerging market banks reflect regional differences as much as broad general features. ? Philip Guarco, Sam Theodore and Elisabeth Jackson Moore report.

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THE SITUATION OF banks in emerging markets varies with the region. The concept of emerging markets for the banking industry is becoming increasingly hard to define as a general category.

Central and eastern European banking systems are increasingly integrated in the EU mainstream - even in those cases where accession to the EU is not imminent. Important segments of Latin American banking are now in the hands of large global banking groups, primarily from Spain and the US.

In the Middle East, fears about major banking difficulties linked to the Iraqi war did not materialize. Russia remains an economy with an underdeveloped banking system, but progress is on its way.

With the Argentine and Uruguayan banking systems still devastated from recent external payments crisis, the Andean systems either reeling from macroeconomic uncertainty (Venezuela and Ecuador) or slowly digging themselves out of recession and financial sector stress (Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru), the most compelling banking system story in Latin America is that of the contrasting system evolutions in Mexico and Brazil.

The recent history of these two banking systems - in countries with more than 75% of Latin America's GDP and more than 270 million people - could not be more different.

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