Banking Sector Performance in Latin America: Market Power Versus Efficiency
19 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2011
Date Written: May 2011
Since the mid-1990s the banking sector in the Latin American emerging markets has experienced profound changes due to financial liberalization, a significant increase in foreign investments, and greater merger activities often occurring following financial crises. The wave of consolidation and the rapid increase in market concentration that took place in most countries has generated concerns about the rise in banks' market power and its potential effects on consumers. This paper advances the existing literature by testing the market power (Structure-Conduct-Performance and Relative Market Power) and efficient structure (X- and scale-efficiency) hypotheses for a sample of over 2500 bank observations in nine Latin American countries over 1997-2005. We use the Data Envelopment Analysis technique to obtain reliable efficiency measures. We produce evidence supporting the efficient structure hypotheses. The findings are particularly robust for the largest banking markets in the region, namely Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. Finally, capital ratios and bank size seem to be among the most important factors in explaining higher than normal profits for Latin American banks.
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