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Argentina's BICE aims to double lending to banks, businesses in 2017

Banco de Inversión y Comercio Exterior SA, or BICE, plans to almost double bank financing and direct loans to companies in 2017 to a total of around 13 billion Argentine pesos from 6.8 billion pesos in 2016, the bank's chairman, Pablo García, told state news agency Télam in an interview.

Of the total loans placed by BICE in 2016, 30% went to banks to promote credit for productive businesses, while 70% went directly to small, medium-sized and large companies. The aim for 2017 is for total lending to be split evenly between banks and companies, García said.

García, who worked at the Inter-American Development Bank before joining BICE, said that in addition to increasing financing for banks and exporters, BICE's other main challenge in 2017 will be strengthening its funding sources.

The bank obtains part of its funds from capital markets and part from multilateral institutions, García said. "There is a myth that state-owned banks have a budget allocation from the government but this is not the case with BICE," he was quoted as saying.

In this regard, on Dec. 14 the bank placed bonds worth 1.16 billion pesos on the local stock exchange after having placed bonds worth 1 billion pesos in August. The funds raised from these bonds are intended to finance lending, especially to small and medium-sized businesses.

As of Dec. 16, US$1 was worth 15.96 Argentine pesos.