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Iberian banks poised for more M&A

Portuguese banks have come smoothly through the recent slump. But with fewer consolidation opportunities available at home, further growth seems dependent on ventures in neighbouring Spain. Spanish predators still circle. Jules Stewart reports.

FLIGHTS BETWEEN LISBON and Madrid are packed with Portuguese and Spanish business people jetting between meetings and closing deals. Nowhere is this bustle of bilateral activity more evident than in banking.

"The second phase of this new relationship between Portugal and Spain is starting now," says Antônio Guerreiro, chairman and chief executive of Portuguese boutique investment bank Banco Finantia. "The first phase was very much in the context of EU membership, with the convergence of markets and currencies. Now it is more an issue of globalization, which equally affects Portugal and Spain. We're involved in a global game and it's no longer a case of protecting one's domestic market. We have to look at our levels of efficiency and productivity. This fact of life is getting into people's minds on both sides of the border. It also implies a generation shift, in as much as we in Portugal are now looking to Spain for opportunities and challenges."

Portuguese acquire in Spain Finantia has been one of the more aggressive Portuguese players in the Spanish market, having allocated almost a quarter of its staff across the border.

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