El Salvador Best Bank: Banco Cuscatlán
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El Salvador’s second largest bank, Banco Cuscatlán, has risen to the challenge of denting the dominance of local market leader Banco Agricola, steadily increasing its market share, asset base and profitability. Last year, the bank reported a 33% increase in earnings to $32.5 million, while Agricola could only manage a single-digit profit figure in comparison. In addition, Cuscatlán’s net interest income grew 6% last year and it recorded a $6.6 million drop in loan-loss provisions coupled with lower operating costs. The bank’s assets stood at $2.57 billion at the end of March, a 9% increase on the same period in 2005. Part of the Panama-based holding company Corporacion UBC Internacional, which operates banks under the Cuscatlán brand in Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras and Guatemala, Cuscatlán is closing in on Banco Agricola’s 29% market share. Cuscatlán boasts a 23% market share despite new competition from Panama’s Grupo Banistmo, and Canada’s Scotiabank, both of which made large acquisitions in El Salvador in recent months.