Scotiabank Looking at Acquisitions in Latin America, Porter Says

Bank of Nova Scotia, Canada’s third-largest bank, will consider buying firms to bolster its operations in Latin America and Asia, said Brian Porter, head of international banking.

“We’ve been very acquisitive,” with 20 international deals in five years, Porter said. “We’ll look at selective acquisitions in the Latin America footprint, and potential acquisitions in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Scotiabank generated 22 percent of profit last year from international banking, which includes operations in 50 countries such as Mexico, Peru and Thailand. Porter, who has been with the Toronto-based bank since 1981, replaced Robert Pitfield as head of international banking in September.

“I don’t think people understand the power of our footprint or the size of our footprint, or the potential penetration of our footprint in some of these jurisdictions,” said Porter, 53, during an interview in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the bank is holding its annual meeting today.

Latin American countries where Scotiabank would like to expand into consumer banking include Colombia, where the lender bought an investment bank from Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc last year.

“There are a lot of Canadian companies there in the mining industry and they want a Canadian bank there,” said Porter, who estimates he travels ‘every other week’ in his new role to regions including the Caribbean, Asia and Central America. “We think that dovetails nicely into our strategy.”

Asian Acquisitions

Panama is showing a lot of “dynamism” in its economy, and will continue to expand, Porter said.

Purchases in Asia could be “along the lines” of the C$2.2 billion ($2.3 billion) agreement Scotiabank announced last year with partner Thanachart Bank, buying a stake in Thailand’s Siam City Bank Pcl.

Potential deals have to “make sense for us, in countries that fit the profile of being under-banked, burgeoning middle class,” said Porter. He declined to say how much the bank would spend on purchases, explaining that the bank looks at a variety of factors, including a country’s political stability.

Scotiabank may also expand its offering of asset-management products such as mutual funds or investment advice in regions it operates in, such as the Caribbean, Mexico, Chile and Peru, Porter said yesterday. The bank is also looking at investment banking and consumer-finance operations there.