American Express Bank and four other foreign institutions have shut down their offices in the Philippines as the financial woes in the United States and Europe prompted them to sell off their offshore assets.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said the asset sale was meant to help the financially troubled parent firms generate liquidity.
In a circular notifying the local banking industry, the BSP said the five foreign banks have already packed up and left. Apart from American Express Bank, the others were Societe General, Union Bank of California N.A., First International Bank and Fortis Bank.
Societe Generale is based in Paris, while First International Bank is based in North Dakota. Fortis Bank is a subsidiary of BNP Paribas, which operates mainly out of Belgium.
“The closure of the offices in the Philippines is a case of deleveraging that is happening now in the West,” BSP Deputy Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. told the Inquirer. “Because of the financial problems of the parent firms, they decided to sell some assets.”
He said the concerned banks were engaged mostly in the business of foreign-exchange lending in the Philippines.
The banks were making profit here, Espenilla explained, but their parent firms were pressed for resources.
“I had a chance to talk to the head of one of the five foreign banks. He told me he was sad about closing the bank’s Philippine office because it was actually making money,” Espenilla said.
He said the closure of the Philippine offices of the five foreign banks is consistent with the ongoing trend of deleveraging in the United States and Europe.
Troubled banks in the West are now disposing their assets in foreign countries as a means to shore up capital.
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