Bladex officially initiated operations in 1979 as an ambitious financial project, created to meet the needs of Latin America and support its development and economic progress via the financing of trade in the region.
A few years after the Central Banks of Latin America approved its constitution, and upon initiating its operations, it was recognized internationally as a multinational banking entity, designed to support any efforts aimed at improving the trade balance of Latin American countries.
The first Board of Directors was chaired by Dr. Nicolas Ardito Barletta, one of Bladex's founding managers along with the late Dr. Roberto Aleman Zubieta and Dr. Fernando Cardoze. Dr. Barletta currently serves as Honorary Chairman and Dr. Cardoze as Honorary Secretary on the Board of the Bank, in recognition of the extraordinary work carried out to achieve the establishment and subsequent opening of Bladex in Panama.
First Board of Directors – July 1978
In its first five years of operation, Bladex completed the initial structuring and organization of the Bank as an institution. Following were the most notable events during this period:
In 1983, Bladex achieved US$3.6 million in accumulated credits and signed several medium-term lending agreements in order to finance non-traditional exports from Central American countries with agencies such as the Agency for International Development (AID) and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE), among others.
Bladex’s Corporate Headquarters were built and inaugurated in Panama City.
Bladex's Headquarters in Panama City
Bladex was able to manage and overcome the challenging political and economic situation that was prevalent in the Region.
From 1983 to 1984, the Latin American debt crisis worsened, causing a 24% decline in the Bank’s assets.
In 1986, Bladex increased the level of its “internationalization”, opening a representative office in Buenos Aires, Argentina, (Resolution No. 8-86, April 1, 1986, expedited by the National Banking Commission of Panama) with the objective of achieving a greater level of closeness with the South American markets.
From 1987 to 1988, Bladex successfully confronted Panama’s various political circumstances during the period, also receiving a special recognition from the Panamanian government, via Resolution No. 11-88 of the National Banking Commission, of March 31, 1988, that excluded the Company from the suspension order of all banking operations as per the general banking policies established in Panama.
In July 1987, the Board of Directors authorized the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice President to set up a Grand Cayman subsidiary, with the objective of ensuring operations and reinforcing the Bank’s treasury operations.
n 1988, the Company opened a representative office in New York City to convert it into a banking agency and offer a wider range of products.
Upon completing its first decade of operations in 1988, Bladex had achieved increasing the number of bank shareholders from 191 to 279.
In 1992, Bladex became the first Latin American bank registered by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) with the successful public offering of its Class “E” shares in the international markets.
This successful transaction represented the culmination of a process that began in 1991, in order for the Bank to increase its capital so as to grow at a more accelerated rate, in the face of the huge financial resources required due to the growth of Latin America’s international trade at that time.
This offering was a complete success, and had to be increased from 3 million to 4 million shares, as a result of the investor interest generated by this transaction.
In that same year, Bladex obtained an “A2 Investment Grade” rating, for its short term debt and “A” rating for its long term debt, not guaranteed by IBCA. With these ratings, Bladex became the first Latin American bank to achieve theses ratings levels.
In 1993, Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s granted investment grade ratings to Bladex’s long and short-term liabilities, while IBCA reaffirmed its rating granted in 1992.
Bladex carried out a secondary offering of Class “E” common shares totaling 3.2 million, equivalent to US$100 million, with the goal of sustaining the Bank’s growth and establishing a solid capital base.
To continue expanding its client base and leverage its market strengths, Bladex opened a representative office in Brazil in January 2000 and in Mexico.
In 2001, the Region was characterized by a difficult operating environment, a decrease in the trade flows and an overall weakness in the global economy. The financial crisis in the Argentine economy forced Bladex to increase the reserve for credit losses by US$106 million, and hedge certain devalued assets, for a total of US$235 million.
In order to return the Bank to historical profitability levels, at the end of 2003, the Bank developed a re-capitalization plan, which successfully culminated on June 27, 2004. This plan managed to raise US$147 in new capital through the emission of a public offering of shares thanks to the support of multilateral agencies and Class “A” shareholders. That same year the Bank was able to strengthen its medium-term funding position through the signing of a US$125 million stand-by agreement with the International Financial Corporation (IFC) to finance trade finance activities in Latin America. In addition, the Financial Development Company of the Netherlands (FMO) and the German Society of Investment and Development (DEG) agreed to loan Bladex US$40 million to fund trade finance activities of local banks and key exporting companies in the Region, as well as to finance part of the restructuring of the Bank’s Argentine portfolio.
In 2003, Bladex managed a net profit of US$111.5 million, which at the time was the highest in the Bank’s history. The Bank entered into strategic alliances with Trade Source International (“TSI”) and with Bank of America. To celebrate the Republic of Panama’s first one-hundred years, the country that Bladex calls home, the Bank dedicated the commemorative monument “Pilares de la Patria” (“Our Country’s Pillars”).
2004 was a year of significant accomplishments for the Bank. Net profit reached
US$141.7 million, establishing a new historical record for our Institution.
New York Stock Exchange closing bell ceremony,
October 11th, 2004
During 2004, Bladex celebrated 25 years of operations within Latin America. The Bank updated its corporate image and brand to reflect a more dynamic, innovative and competitive bank, with expertise and excellence within Latin American trade finance. The unveiling of our new brand took place in Panama on July 5, 2004, while the same launch was held the following 11th of October in the United States. To celebrate the occasion, for the first time in our history, the New York Stock Exchange honored us with “Bladex Day”, which culminated with the Bank ringing the “Closing Bell” to ceremoniously end trading activities for the day.
In 2005, as part of its ongoing corporate social responsibility program, the Bank sponsored a gallery at the Panama Canal Museum with works highlighting the contribution of Panamanian workers. The same year it was awarded the “Social Investment in Education” EDUCO Award granted by Panama’s Private Sector Council for Educational Assistance (COSPAE) for its work to build and equip the Marie Poussepin Educational Center, located in one of the poorest sectors of the country.
Also that year, Bladex signed an agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for the promotion of trade flows in the Region through the IDB’s Trade Finance Program.
In 2006, a series of actions were undertaken aimed at expanding the Bank’s business in the Region. Corporate clients engaged in trade were acquired and the Bank’s revenues are now equally divided between banks and corporations. Using this same approach, the Treasury Division was transformed into a source of income, generating significant investment opportunities in Latin American bond issues. In that same year, the Bank opened a representative office in Miami, leveraging on the city’s logistical importance as the major U.S. export center to our Region, to attract business stemming from exports to Latin American and the Caribbean.
The establishment of these two new companies completes the Bank’s initiatives during this period:
Clavex: Provides specialized training and advisory services to the banking and financial sector in the Region.
Bladex Asset Management: Specializes in providing investment advisory services, achieving positive returns by managing risk through hedging and portfolio management techniques.
During 2007, among the important highlights of the Bank, the following stand out:
In May 2008, Standard & Poor’s upgraded Bladex’s ratings from BBB- to BBB, followed in July by Fitch which also upgraded its ratings to BBB. In November, jointly with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of Panama, the Bank awarded for the first time the Bladex Exporter Award in the categories of “Innovation” and “Excellence in Economic Journalism”.
During 2008, Bladex closed a two-year syndicated term loan facility. Initially launched at an amount of US$150 million, the facility closed at US$245 million with the participation of a group of thirteen financial institutions.
In 2009, Bladex amended its Articles of Incorporation to broaden the scope of the Bank’s activities to cover all types of banking business and investments that support foreign trade in the Region and change the name of the Bank from “Banco Latinoamericano de Exportaciones S.A.” to “Banco Latinoamericano de Comercio Exterior S.A.” in Spanish, and from “Latin American Export Bank” to “Foreign Trade Bank of Latin America, Inc.” in English, while maintaining the name “Bladex” as its commercial trademark.
From 2010 to 2011, Bladex expanded its regional footprint, establishing representative offices in Porto Alegre, Brazil; Monterrey, Mexico; Lima, Peru, and Bogota, Colombia. This provides local presence in 7 countries and 10 economic centers in the Region to deliver more effective personalized service and help drive the growth of companies in international markets.
In 2011, the Bank established for the first time a Renminbi credit line in China in order to finance trade between Latin America and China.
In 2012, Bladex successfully completed the first-ever issuance of “certificados bursátiles” in the Mexican capital markets, in the amount of Pesos 2.0 billion (two billion Mexican pesos) with a three-year tenor. The Bank also announced the issuance of a US$400 million bond, its first 144A/Reg S transaction in several years.
On May 2, the Bank’s Board of Directors announced the appointment of Mr. Rubens V. Amaral Jr. as Chief Executive Officer effective August 1, replacing Mr. Jaime Rivera.
Bladex unveils its new Head Office designed to improve internal communication and efficiency, enabling the Bank to provide more efficient and better service to our clients.
On July 31, Fitch Ratings upgraded Bladex’s long-term international ratings in foreign currency to BBB+ with a stable outlook. This rating reflects the Bank’s financial soundness and broad expertise in Latin American trade finance.
Bladex Day was held in October to celebrate 20 years on NYSE Euronext.
New York Stock Exchange closing bell ceremony,
October 17th, 2012
In 2013, Bladex´s new Headquarters received the LEED Gold Certification for Commercial Interiors, making it the first bank in Panama to achieve this distinction.
New Head Office
Bladex was the first Latin American bank to sign a risk-sharing facility with the International Financial Corporation (IFC) of up to US$350 million to enable enhanced access to trade finance for key commodities businesses in Latin America, thus contributing to regional food security.
A multiple purpose financial institution (Sofom) called BLX Soluciones was incorporated in Mexico to offer new local leasing options, specializing in leasing machinery and equipment mainly to the manufacturing industry.
Bladex's "Fundación Crece Latinoamérica" began operations in support of the communities where we work.
In September Bladex announced the issuance of a US$350 million bond due in 2020, the Bank's second 144A/Reg S transaction. The issue was substantially oversubscribed and placed with global institutional and retail investors.