Billionaire Salinas Seeks U.S. Entry to Target ?Unbanked?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) — Ricardo Salinas, the Mexican billionaire whose banking and retail empire spans eight countries, is looking to bring his microlending business to the U.S. to capitalize on the opportunity with low-income customers.

Grupo Elektra SA seeks clients at the “bottom of the pyramid” in terms of income and assets, and U.S. households with less than $25,000 in annual income fit that profile, Salinas said today in an interview at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York. He said he is considering entering the U.S. market with loans and “micro-insurance” plans, such as paying $10 a week for a $5,000 life-insurance policy, to serve those now “unbanked.”

“That would be my dream to set up a series of 10,000 branches over the U.S. that addressed the bottom of the pyramid,” he said. “It’s complicated because of the environment, but we’re looking at it.”

Salinas, 56, has used loans of an average size of $400 to build Mexico’s 10th-largest bank measured by credit portfolio, according to government statistics. Banco Azteca, started by Salinas in 2002 as a unit of the retailer his father founded, has 12 million loan accounts across Latin America.

State and federal regulations make it difficult to enter the U.S., Salinas said. He said he isn’t interested in buying a U.S. bank and would prefer to start from scratch in the country.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek (link opens in a new window)