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Latin America: ABN Amro keeps its core from its periphery

Brazil specifically – not Latin America – is one of ABN Amro’s four core markets. And there’s every indication that the Dutch bank intends to keep things that way. Felix Salmon reports

IN 2006, DUTCH bank ABN Amro had a fair-to-middling year, with its total operating income excluding the acquisition of Italy’s Antonveneta rising by €1.28 billion, or 6.8%, to €20 billion. However, more than 70% of that increase came from one far-flung outlier of the ABN Amro group: the Latin America operations, for which read Brazil’s hugely profitable Banco Real.

ABN Amro’s Latin American operating income ended 2006 up by €904 million – an impressive 32% – to €3.7 billion. No other group within the bank came close. And although ABN has high hopes for growth in its Italian franchise, it’s clear that, for the time being, the Brazilian operation is by far the healthiest of its four "core markets" – Brazil, Italy, the Netherlands, and the US midwest.

To put it another way: Brazil is a core, strategic market for ABN Amro. Its other Latin American operations are not so much so – it’s entirely possible that it might sell its banks in Uruguay and Paraguay, just as it has been selling other non-core assets such as its Bouwfonds property business, its stake in Hungary’s K&H Bank, and possibly its holding in Saudi Hollandi Bank.

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