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The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, has signed an agreement to provide up toUS$30mn in long-term financing to Grupo Financiero Uno, one of the leading financial groups in Central America.

IFC’s financing will help with expansion and consolidation of the group in the region.

“This investment represents IFC’s strategy to support local banks and financial institutions that adhere to international best practices,” says Paolo Martelli, IFC’s senior manager for Mexico and Central America. “IFC’s investment in Grupo Uno is expected to bolster further the bank’s standing among banks in Central America and set an example for others to follow.”
The investment will be in the form of senior loans to Banco Uno SA (Panama) and Banco Uno, SA (El Salvador) for liquidity management and funding diversification purposes. Each loan will have a maturity of seven years with a two-year grace period.

Ernesto Fernandez Holmann, chairman of the board of Grupo Financiero Uno, says: “IFC’s investment is a vote of confidence in Grupo Financiero Uno and in the future of the Central American financial markets. IFC’s financial strength and experience will be invaluable as Central America strives to develop its financial infrastructure.”

Grupo Financiero Uno provides, through a network of affiliated companies, retail banking, credit cards, insurance, and asset management services to more than 1mn retail customers in Central America. The group has operations in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and recently expanded its credit card operation in Mexico.

IFC’s investment in financial institutions in Central America is key to its strategy to promote the region’s financial integration and increase the depth and soundness of its financial systems. This strategy focuses on encouraging economic growth, in particular by developing the region’s financial and physical infrastructure and supporting competitive manufacturing and services companies.

IFC seeks to support Central American countries as they work to increase their competitiveness in the face of accelerating globalisation. The investment in Grupo Uno comes at a key moment, as the recently signed Central America Free Trade Agreement (Cafta) is creating new opportunities and challenges for the private sector and the governments of the region.