On the Ground.In Mexico

Article excerpt

Emerging market fans who expect fast ecoomic rebounds in Asia are getting a jolt of sobriety from an in-depth report on Mexico's banking industry. Produced by an independent auditor at the behest of Mexico's Chamber of Deputies, it provides the best view so far of the pileup of bad loans at Mexico's banks after the peso collapsed late in 1994-nearly three years before the Asia crisis materialized.

Amid controversy over the government's bailout plan, the Zedillo government took an unprecedented step:To sort out what bad debts should and should not be covered by taxpayers, it hired Michael W Mackey, a Canadian auditor in Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu's Toronto office, who marshaled five Mexican accounting firms to help. Instead of an expected $60 billion in bad loans, Mackey and his team found some $72 billion, or 20% more.

But only $638 billion were outright illegal loans to bank shareowners or their cronies, while another $7.1 billion, or roughly 10%, were questionable loans to affiliated companies or other banks. …