BBVA’s international activities are already a hundred years old. Banco de Bilbao opened a branch in Paris in 1902 and a London branch in 1918. It was thus several decades ahead of other Spanish banks.
During the 1970s Banco de Bilbao, Banco de Vizcaya and Banco Exterior became international groups with branches and representative offices in the main capitals of Europe, the Americas and Asia. They also started to acquire local banks in these areas, mainly in Latin America.
In 1968 Banco Exterior had created BEX Panama and this has now become BBVA Panama after merging with BBV Panama in 2000.
Banco de Vizcaya acquired Banco Comercial de Mayagüez in Puerto Rico in 1979. This bank was founded in 1967 by a group of traders and manufacturers. After becoming BBV Puerto Rico, in 1992 it commenced a phase of growth through acquisitions, leading to the current BBVA Puerto Rico.
However in 1995 BBV started to develop an international expansion strategy that led to the construction of a large network in Latin America. This entailed important investments in capital, technology and human resources.
In 1995 it entered Peru following the privatisation of Banco Continental and Mexico through Probursa.
The origins of Banco Continental – known as ‘the friendly bank’ – go back to 1951. It combines concern for both customers and culture. Banca Asociada was added in 1970 with a state holding.
In 1996 BBV expanded its presence in Colombia through Banco Ganadero and in Argentina through Banco Francés.
Banco Ganadero was started in 1956 with the support of some local farmers. Its purpose is to support and encourage agricultural activity. In 1959 legislation (Ley 26) converted the bank into a mixed company with shares held by the government, private individuals and farmers.
Banco Francés (Río de La Plata) was set up in Buenos Aires in 1886. For more than a century it serviced large companies in Argentina. During the 1980s it extended its branch network throughout that country, adding SMEs and private individuals to its customers.
In 1997 BBVA entered Venezuela through Banco Provincial, which had been set up in 1953. At the beginning this bank focused its activities on the capital city and the central region. Today it is the most important and most solid financial institution in Venezuela. It has enjoyed this position of leadership since 1983.
In 1998 a start was made in Chile through Banco BHIF.
The origin of this bank goes back to 1883 and the creation of Banco Hipotecario in Valparaíso. In 1976 it started to expand with the help of the three industrial groups that controlled the bank and it moved its headquarters to Santiago. In 1989 it merged with Banco Nacional and became Banco BHIF.
In Mexico, BBV Probursa merged with Bancomer in 2000 to create BBVA Bancomer – the leading bank in that country.
Bancomer was started in Mexico City in 1932 with the name Banco de Comercio. In 1977 it consolidated the entities in its merchant banking system to create Bancomer. Along with other Mexican banks it was nationalised in 1982 and in 1991 a group of local investors acquired a controlling interest.
Deployment of the common platform was completed in 2001 for all business areas and countries. The BBVA brand was thus applied to the group’s subsidiaries in Latin America.
In 2004 the banks in Chile and Colombia changed their name to BBVA.
At the beginning of 2004, BBVA launched a bid to buy out all the minority interests in Bancomer. In line with the strengthening of the Group’s position in the Mexican market, BBVA also acquired 100% of Hipotecaria Nacional, the country’s largest private institution specialising in mortgage business.
The other area of international expansion was the Group’s entry into the US market. During the second quarter of the year, the Group purchased Valley Bank, California through BBVA Bancomer. In September, BBVA continued its expansion in the US Hispanic market when it announced that it was buying Laredo National Bancshares in Texas.
In order to continue its the strategy with individuals and the SME market in the US. , a specific business unit has been set up which will take charge of all the Group’s businesses in this region, which includes BBVA Puerto Rico and the US banks.
In October 2005, BBVA purchased Granahorrar in Colombia; an acquisition that places BBVA at the head of the country’s mortgage market, whilst also incorporating a broad customer base.
BBVA announced in May 2006 the acquisition of Forum, a company that specialises in financing vehicle purchases in Chile. In Jun,e the Group announced the purchase of Texas Regional Bancshares Inc. and State National Bancshares Inc., two important banks in Texas.