La Jornada newspaper
Wednesday May 27, 2020, p. 24
If someone was favored by the surprising increase in remittances in the first quarter of the year, it was Ricardo Salinas Pliego. Among all his businesses, the president of Grupo Salinas has a very special one that grows every year and only in 2019 left him income of almost 4 billion pesos: charging commissions to migrants for sending money to their families in Mexico.
In the last decade, the second-richest person money transfer segment in Mexico, managed by Grupo Elektra, has increased 150 percent. According to its own financial statements, in 2009 it was worth one thousand 606 million pesos. But 10 years later it reaches 3,990.
Elektra’s income from money transfer fees is growing faster than remittances. According to data from the Bank of Mexico (BdeM), in 2009 compatriots abroad sent 21 thousand 306 million dollars and in 2019 the sum went to 36 thousand 45 million, an increase of 70 percent.
Due to the jobs lost in the United States by the Covid-19 pandemic, the flow of remittances to Mexico was expected to decrease in March; However, against all expectations, shipments increased 45 percent, reaching 4,116 million dollars, compared to 2,900 million in the same month of 2019.
Salinas Pliego’s flagship businesses are two and linked: the interest it charges on loans it places through Banco Azteca, which in 2019 left it income of 58 billion pesos, and the sale of merchandise in Elektra stores, mainly on credit , which represented 39 billion.
Like the Mexicans who had to leave the country and now send money, Elektra and Banco Azteca’s clients are, for the most part, of low economic resources.
To measure the importance of charging remittance commissions in the Salinas Pliego scheme, his most visible company, Tv Azteca, the second largest television station in the country, reported in 2019 revenues of 4 thousand 82 million pesos, that is , just 2 percent more than money transfers.
Given the measures of social confinement due to the pandemic, the businessman refused to close his 1,200 Elektra stores that he has throughout Mexico, where he precisely distributes a large part of remittances. Just two weeks ago, he promised to stop selling products other than financial services.
Salinas Pliego, whose fortune, 11 billion dollars, is only surpassed in Mexico by Carlos Slim’s, has demonstrated on several occasions against the government for measures of social confinement and closure of companies. The most recent of their complaints was: Will they be locked up until they are detached?
A couple of years ago, Alejandro Valenzuela, CEO of Banco Azteca, said that approximately 45 percent of remittances arrived in Mexico through Grupo Elektra. This is only possible thanks to the robust network of alliances that the companies have with the main remittance companies that operate in the United States.
There are no Elektra stores in the United States, but that has not stopped Salinas Pliego, since it has built a network of alliances with companies such as Western Union, MoneyGram, Remitly, WorldRemit or Xoom, which, being distributed throughout the United States, They capture the money and send it to Mexico to be withdrawn at the branches of the retail store.
Additionally, Elektra sends resources through Dinero Express, a service that it offers in combination with Banco Azteca, which allows international transfers to more than 130 countries through a mobile application.
According to the 2019 Migration and Remittances Yearbook, prepared by BBVA, Mexico is the fourth largest recipient of remittances, of which 28.3 percent arrive via banking institutions and 71.7 percent from other companies such as Elektra.