MANILA, December 10, 2003  (STAR) By Des Ferriols  - Philippine National Bank (PNB) is expanding its remittance business into the $32-billion Latin American market as it started negotiations with a Mexican group for a possible tie-up.

PNB officials said it has been approached by various group interested in forging tie-ups after the bank succeeded in its earlier joint-venture with the Indonesian Bank Mandiri specifically to facilitate the remittances of Indonesian workers.

PNB remittance adviser Jose Vicente Cuison told reporters that PNB was positioning itself in the Latin American market where it could forge various joint-ventures with local finance groups.

At present, PNB operates remittance centers in mainland US, Canada, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Cuison said PNB was expecting to generate at least $14.5 million in net income from remittances alone this year, forming a significant portion of the bank’s projected P150 million net income for the whole year.

"The Mexican group is keenly interested in how we handle remittances and even our labor development program here," Cuizon said. "They’re even modeling after the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency."

Cuizon said PNB was taking advantage of its wealth of experience in remittances and every remittance center could also be used as distribution centers for other bank products and services offered by the PNB.

At present, Cuizon said the PNB accounted for at least 30 percent of the market and its pioneering entry into various territories were being closely watched by competition, mainly by Metrobank which accounts for a third of the remittance market in the country.

"Everywhere we go, they follow," Cuizon said, adding that some banks do not bother to conduct their own feasibility studies as long as PNB had already broken into certain areas.

Remittances from overseas Filipino workers are expected to drop in the coming years but PNB said it was taking advantage of the growth in the remittance market in other Southeast Asian countries.

As the country’s traditional offshore labor markets began to seriously implement the nationalization of their respective labor markets, PNB said there were opportunities in markets that were open to foreign labor.

PNB has already tied up with Bank Mandiri, the biggest and most profitable bank in Indonesia. Bank Mandiri which was restricted from opening as many branches as it needs to serve Indonesian workers so they have tied up with PNB.

PNB has already tied up with the 7-11 network in Hong Kong and Filipino workers there are already able to remit their money through one of the 480 convenience stores scattered around the territory.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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