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Botín's new venture

As the investment banking chief of Spain's Banco Santander, Ana Botín cut a swath across Latin America in the 1990s, buying bank after bank.

Now she has brought her characteristic flair , and her connections , to a new Latin American venture: an investment fund aimed at small and midsize companies in the region's largest economies.

A star-studded cast turned up for last month's launch of the $15 million fund in Mexico, including Mexican Economy Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez, former Mexican finance minister Angel Gurría, Spanish undersecretary of Commerce and Tourism Juan Costa and Spanish undersecretary of International Cooperation Miguel Cortés, as well as leading Spanish executives.

Capitalized by Spanish corporations, multilateral banks and local development banks, the fund aims to make equity investments of between $250,000 and $2 million in companies with fewer than 250 employees and sales of less than $5 million.

Says Botín, who plans to launch similar funds in Argentina and Brazil: "Debt financing is very expensive and equity financing is almost nonexistent for small and medium-size companies. We'll offer a private sector management model."