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BANKING

Costa Rica Best Bank: Banco Nacional de Costa Rica

Bahamas I Bardados I Bermuda I Dominician Republic I Jamaica I Trinidad & Tobago I Costa Rica I El Salvador I Guatemala I Honduras I Nicaragua I Panama I Argentina I Bolivia I Brazil I Chile I Colombia I Ecuador I Mexico I Paraguay I Peru I Uruguay I Venezuela

Costa Rica’s banking sector is unusual in Central America because two state-owned banks and a workers’ bank together have some 63% of the market in terms of assets. Still, state-run Banco Nacional de Costa Rica, one of the biggest banks in Central America, relishes in its leading position and its profits rose 63% last year to $59 million, double the growth of its closest competitors in a sluggish economic environment, driven by strong growth in lending and investment gains from securities. With a market share of 33% in terms of assets, Banco Nacional tops the 17-bank financial sector. It has continued its strong financial performance into 2006, reporting a 12% increase in earnings to $17.5 million in the first quarter, while loans were up 35% and financial investments increased 36.5%. The bank’s assets grew by a third to almost $4 billion. Again, in contrast to other Central American countries, where lending is normally boosted by consumer and mortgage loans, Banco Nacional de Costa Rica’s loan expansion has been lifted mainly by the commercial sector, which is an achievement since the Costa Rican economy is expected to grow just 2.7%

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