Latin American 'reconquest' well-placed for Spanish recovery

Wed Jan 8, 2014 7:37am EST
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By Tracy Rucinski and Elinor Comlay

MADRID/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - As Spain's economy begins to recover from a near-fatal crisis, Latin American companies and entrepreneurs are ahead of the pack in gaining a foothold from which they can grab a share of the spoils.

Mexicans, Venezuelans and others have moved into areas such as banking, travel, food and other consumer-orientated sectors.

Investors from Spain's former colonies are also snapping up financially strained firms in "the Mother County" in need of liquidity boosts.

In recent surprise deals, Venezuelan bank Banesco won a bid for state-rescued lender NCG Banco CAJAFN.UL with an offer of 1 billion euros. Peru-based Grupo Santo Domingo pledged 100 million euros as part of a wider capital injection in Spanish property firm Colonial (COL.MC: Quote).

"It's a logical phenomenon," said Enrique Quemada, head of Madrid-based M&A adviser ONEtoONE Capital Partners.

"It's now clear that Spain isn't leaving the euro and the euro isn't falling apart, so with opportunities at a good price and a common language, it's the natural gateway for large Latin American groups to enter Europe," said Quemada, who has opened offices in Mexico, Colombia and Peru to tap investor interest.

The trend is a reversal of the investment tide in the 1990s which saw Spanish businesses pour money into Latin America.

Newly privatized Spanish firms scooped up Latin American banks, telephone companies and utilities, drawing sometimes-unfavorable comparisons to their armor-clad Conquistador ancestors 500 years earlier.   Continued...

People wait inside a government-run employment office in Campillos, near Malaga, southern Spain May 6, 2013. REUTERS/Jon Nazca