The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
This paper investigates the efficiency of domestic and foreign banks in the Central American region during 2002-07. Using two main empirical approaches, Data Envelopment Analysis and Stochastic Frontier Analysis, the paper finds that foreign banks are not necessarily more efficient than their domestic counterparts. If anything, the regional banks that were acquired by global banks in a wave of acquisitions during 2005-07 can keep up with the local institutions. The efficiency of these acquired banks, however, is shown to have dropped during the acquisition year, recovering only slightly thereafter. Finally, it is important to account for the environment in which banks operate, as country-, sector- and firm-specific characteristics are found to have a considerable influence on bank efficiency.