MADRID, March 15 Spanish bank BBVA is
focusing on technology such as online banking as it tries to
keep business growing in its strongest foreign markets this
year, especially Mexico, executives told shareholders on Friday.
Income from BBVA's businesses in Latin America and other
emerging markets like Turkey last year helped soften the blow of
recession at home in Spain, where bad debts rose and it took big
writedowns on soured property deals.
Mexico provided just over 40 percent of the group's adjusted
profits in 2012 - more than Spain. BBVA said it wanted to grow
further there and in the rest of Latin America by investing in
technology that could help it reach more customers, such as
Internet and mobile phone banking.
"We are putting expansion plans in place to take advantage
of opportunities in (the Mexican) market, plans which are very
much centred on technology and infrastructure," BBVA Chief
Executive Angel Cano told shareholders at the bank's annual
meeting in Bilbao, northern Spain.
Spain's second-biggest bank did not say how much it planned
to spend on these investments this year.
Like bigger peer Santander, BBVA is among Spain's
healthier lenders that have managed to survive a five-year-old
property crash without asking for state help, thanks in great
part to income from overseas.
Aside from Latin America, BBVA is also looking to boost its
business in Turkey, where it has a stake of nearly 25 percent in
Garanti Bank and the option to increase it, and in the United
States. Executives stressed that new technologies would also
help them turn the U.S. market into one of BBVA's biggest.
BBVA made a loss in Spain last year and writedowns on real
estate in the country pushed the whole group's profits down 44
percent to 1.67 billion euros ($2.17 billion).
But Chairman Francisco Gonzalez reiterated that BBVA wanted
to almost double its market share to 20 percent in Spain in the
coming years as other banks shrink.
Gonzalez added that BBVA would continue to return emergency
loans from the European Central Bank in the coming months, as
funding strains ease.
It has already returned roughly half of the 30 billion euros
in had in so-called longer-term refinancing operations.