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Cablegate: Nicaragua: Application for Opic Finance - Bac Nicaragua

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #1070 2332107
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 202107Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3052
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS MANAGUA 001070

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE PASS OPIC/VP/SF:KCHRISTENSEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EINV EFIN EAID ECON PGOV PREL NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA: APPLICATION FOR OPIC FINANCE - BAC NICARAGUA

REF: (A) State 81128 (B) Managua 0932

1. (U) Summary. Embassy Managua supports OPIC's proposal for a $30 million loan to Banco de America Central, S.A. Nicaragua (BAC Nicaragua). We have reviewed the proposal and concluded that there are no reasons why the loan should not proceed. End Summary.

Company Standing
----------------

3. (U) Embassy review of BAC Nicaragua, its foreign sponsor, and key
shareholder investors did not reveal any information linking the
company and/or principals to terrorism, money laundering, corruption
or violations of law. Established in 1953, BAC Nicaragua is the
second largest bank in Nicaragua, employing approximately 2,000
people. The bank enjoys a Fitch Rating of AA, and is one of the
most reputable financial institutions in Nicaragua.

Recent Events
-------------

4. (SBU) In support of an incipient political movement against MFIs,
President Ortega accused Nicaraguan MFIs of "usurious lending"
practices. In July 2008, some protests turned violent in the
northern department of Nueva Segovia (Ref B). One protest resulted
in the kidnapping of a local MFI branch manager. Another resulted
in protesters setting fire to an MFI storefront in the city of
Ocotal. Still others resulted in road closures and the barricading
of various MFIs.

5. (SBU) Members of the financial community have commented that Ortega's rhetoric has contributed to the radical nature of these protests and a corresponding increase in country risk. Evidence suggests that the leaders of the protests are politically connected to Ortega's party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), and that their purpose is to force small farmers to do business with ALBA-CARUNA (an FSLN-controlled, Venezuelan-funded rural cooperative bank). Otherwise, MFIs in Nicaragua are well regarded. At competitive interest rates, they have funded the expansion of many small agricultural producers in rural areas and small merchants in urban areas. Collectively, the current portfolio of MFI loans total some $600 million, a substantial proportion of total lending in Nicaragua. This segment of the market is attracting greater interest from major banks such as BAC Nicaragua.

SANDERS

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