(Adds competition regulator's comments)
MEXICO CITY, April 19 Mexico is investigating
possible antitrust violations by intermediaries in auctions of
the country's public debt market, the Federal Economic
Competition Commission (Cofece) said on Wednesday, without
naming any institutions in the probe.
The government sells hundreds of billions of pesos of
securities every year and daily trades total nearly 100 billion
pesos ($5.3 billion). Commercial banks and brokerage houses are
the main participants in auctions of treasury bills, or Cetes,
and other debt instruments.
Cofece said it initiated the ongoing probe nearly six months
after finding signs that competitors might have agreed on or
manipulated prices, restricted or limited supply or demand, or
divided markets to gain an unfair advantage.
"This commission had knowledge of situations that constitute
signs of possible antitrust practices," Cofece said in a
"If there are agreements that affect the auction of
government securities, the damage to the public treasury and to
investors would be serious," said Cofece head Carlos Mena.
Financial institutions found guilty of antitrust practices
could face fines of up to 10 percent of their income, and any
individuals who assisted could face up to 10 years in prison,
Mexico's banking sector is led by BBVA Bancomer,
Citigroup Inc's Citibanamex, Grupo Financiero Banorte
and Santander Mexico.
(Reporting by Anthony Esposito and Roberto Aguilar; Editing by
Mitra Taj and Richard Chang)