March 27, 2015

International News Roundup

Canadian Banks Depositing More Branches in Florida

Canadian banks are following their customers to Florida, hoping to tap new opportunities.

As some U.S. banks closed or retrenched during the economic downtown, Canadian banks saw opportunity to grow in Florida.

"Canadian banks are following Canadian consumers," says Ken Thomas, an independent bank consultant and economist in Miami. They are also following opportunities for U.S. customers. "South Florida is one of the five best banking markets in the nation, with retail, wealth management and international trade finance," Thomas says.

Toronto-based TD Bank has become Florida's ninth-largest financial institution by deposits, with about $9.37 billion. Bank of Montreal, Canada's fourth largest bank, entered the state in 2011 via the acquisition of Marshall & Illsley, whose Milwaukee-based M&I Bank had about 30 branches in central Florida and the state's west coast. Some Canadian banks — especially smaller brands like NatBank — continue to strictly serve Canadian nationals who spend their winters in Florida.

TD Bank, which has 161 locations in Florida and plans to open 14 more this year, sees "tremendous opportunity on the deposit side" in Florida, says Ernie Diaz, the bank's Coral Gables-based regional president in Florida. He points to the state's population growth, GDP and strong small-business community.

"Florida is the perfect, although competitive, banking opportunity environment," Diaz says. "Couple that with the fact that so many Canadians spend a significant amount of time in Florida, with second homes or businesses or real estate investments, and it becomes a natural market for expansion."

International trade opportunities are also drawing Canadian banks, says Frank Gonzalez, principal-in-charge of the Audit Department at accounting firm MBAF's Miami office. "The new Canadian banks setting up in this area will have more opportunities to grow," he says, "depending on the extent that the banks can assist these businesses with their banking and financing needs, especially from an international standpoint. — Jennifer LeClaire

BUSINESS BRIEFS

BRAZIL — Miami-based digital commerce company Paymentez introduced a reloadable prepaid debit card in Brazil. Called Be. Unique, the card can be loaded in local currency and used in foreign currency but has lower fees than traditional credit cards. Use of the card does not carry a foreign transaction tax for Brazilians, and the card can be used by consumers as young as 14 (rather than the traditional 18).

CANADA — Air Canada Rouge, a new leisure-focused airline from Air Canada, began service at Orlando International Airport. It expects to eventually fy six daily fights between Orlando and Toronto. » Weston-based human resources, payroll and recruitment software company Ultimate Software is providing systems for Toronto, Canada based Cineplex Entertainment.

LATIN AMERICA — Mining and metals company Nyrstar plans to open a 25-employee headquarters for the Americas in Fort Lauderdale. The facility for the Belgium-based company will manage operations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Honduras, Chile and Peru. » Mobile advertising company Opera Media works plans to open an offce in Miami to serve as headquarters for its expansion into Latin America. Mobile payment technology company Yellow Pepper, which mainly works in Latin America, is moving its headquarters from Aventura to Miami's Wynwood area as it expands.

MIDDLE EAST — Florida-based aviation and aerospace companies made deals for more than $67 million in sales at the Dubai Airshow in November, according to Enterprise Florida.

NORWAY — Norwegian Air plans to open a U.S. crew base in Fort Lauderdale early this year.

PANAMA — Miami Beach-based CSMB International — which provides services including risk management, training, due diligence and financial investigation — opened an offce in Panama City and is expanding into Latin America.

URUGUAY — Miami-based medical test and medication maker Opko Health acquired Uruguay-based pharmaceutical firm Laboratorio Arama de Uruguay. It plans to use the acquisition to expand its Latin America presence into Uruguay and neighboring Argentina.

Industry Briefs

RESTAURANTS — Giraffas, Brazil's third-largest fast-food chain, will open three more fast-casual steak and burger restaurants in the state (in Cypress Creek, Coral Springs and Fort Lauderdale) early this year and has signed lease agreements for two more locations in Orlando, one in Tampa and one in Miami- Dade. » Vivenda do Camarão, also based in Brazil, opened its first U.S. restaurant in Coral Springs and will open one at Dadeland Mall in Miami-Dade's Kendall area. The U.S. locations use the name The Shrimp House. The company plans to open eight more restaurants in Florida this year.

FINANCE — More than 1,200 people attended the North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami Beach in January. The international peer-to-peer digital currency, created in 2009 and controlled by a software algorithm, could become a vehicle for international trade.

TRAVEL — U.S. Customs and Border Protection agreed to allow Miami International Airport to pay Customs and Border Protection officers overtime out of the airport's budget. The county and the airport hope that the extra hours of work will help alleviate wait times of as much as five hours for travelers entering or passing through the U.S.

REAL ESTATE — Canada-based builder Mattamy Homes opened a division in Tampa. » José Afonso Assumpção, founder and owner of Brazilian airline Líder Aviação, paid $7.6 million for a 37,000-sq.- ft. Parcel in Miami's Edgewater neighborhood that is permitted for a 127-unit residential tower.

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