Banco Nacional Ultramarino

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Banco Nacional Ultramarino
Wholly owned subsidiary
Founded1864 in Lisbon, Portugal
Area served
ProductsFinancial services
ServicesPersonal banking, credit cards, banknotes
Number of employees
450 (2017)
ParentCaixa Geral de Depósitos (2001)
Banco Nacional Ultramarino
Traditional Chinese大西洋銀行
Simplified Chinese大西洋银行

Banco Nacional Ultramarino (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈbɐ̃ku nɐsiuˈnaɫ uɫtɾɐmɐˈɾinu], BNU; Chinese: 大西洋銀行; English: National Overseas Bank) was a Portuguese bank with operations throughout the world, especially in Portugal's former overseas provinces. It ceased existence as an independent legal entity in Portugal following its merger in 2001 with Caixa Geral de Depósitos, the government-owned savings bank. The Chinese name's meaning is literally Great West Ocean Bank or Atlantic Bank.

The bank continues operations today under the Banco Nacional Ultramarino brand in Macau, a Chinese Special Administrative Region and former Portuguese colony, where it is also licensed to issue Macanese pataca banknotes.


BNU logo
Bas-relief at Banco Nacional Ultramarino, Lisbon, of the coats-of-arms of the Portuguese Empire and various of its colonies
BNU Macau
BNU Tower in Macau

Banco Nacional Ultramarino (BNU) was established in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1864 as a bank of issue for Portuguese overseas territories. the next year it opened branches in Luanda, Angola and Praia, Cabo Verde. Three years after that, in 1868, BNU opened branches in São Tomé and Príncipe, Goa, and Lourenço Marques, Mozambique.

In 1901 BNU lost its banking monopoly, but retained its note-issuing monopoly in the countries in which BNU operated. The next year, BNU opened branches in Macau and in Bolama, Portuguese Guinea (present-day Guinea-Bissau).

Just before World War I, in 1912, BNU opened branches in Dili, East Timor (present-day Timor Leste), and in Brazil.

  • 1919 - BNU established a representative office in Stanleyville and a branch in Paris.
  • 1920 - BNU established a representative office in Bombay.
  • 1926 - BNU lost its note-issuing monopoly in Angola with creation of Banco de Angola. BNU transferred its branch in Stanleyville to Banco de Angola.[1]
  • 1929 - BNU established Anglo-Portuguese Colonial and Overseas Bank, its subsidiary in London, and converted its branch in Paris to a subsidiary, Banque Franco-Portugaise d’Outre-Mer.

In 1952 BNU closed its branches in India.

In 1965 BNU, Banco Português do Atlântico, Banco de Angola, and the South African company, General Mining and Finance, founded Bank of Lisbon and South Africa. This was later renamed Mercantile Lisbon Bank.

In the 1970s, BNU bought a stake in Banque Interatlantique in Luxembourg, and established a representative office in London.

In 1974 the Portuguese government nationalized BNU, following the Carnation Revolution. Immediately thereafter, in 1975, local governments nationalized BNU's interests in Mozambique, which became Banco de Moçambique, and in São Tomé and Príncipe, which became National Bank of São Tomé and Príncipe. In 1993, the government split National Bank into a central bank, Central Bank of São Tomé and Príncipe, and a commercial bank, Banco Internacional de Sao Tome e Principe. In Cape Verde, BNU's interests became Bank of Cape Verde. In 1993, the government spun off the commercial banking operations into a new bank, Banco Comercial do Atlantico.

  • 1988 - Portuguese Government-owned Caixa Geral de Depósitos became the majority shareholder of BNU, with the Republic of Portugal the sole other shareholder.
  • 1991 - BNU opened a branch in London.
  • 1993 - BNU opened a branch in Zhuhai, a Special Economic Zone of China.
  • 1993 - Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD) became the majority shareholder in Banque Franco-Portugaise d’Outre-Mer. In 2002, CGD closed the bank by merging its operations into CGD's branch in Paris.
  • 1995 - The Chinese government confirmed that BNU would remain a note issuer in Macao until at least 2010.
  • 1999 - BNU opened representative offices in Mumbai and Panjim (Goa), and a branch in Dili, Timor Leste.
  • 2000 - BNU reached an agreement with the Administration of Macau Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, under which BNU remains an Agent of the Treasury.
  • 2001 - BNU and Caixa Geral de Depósitos merged through incorporation of BNU into Caixa Geral de Depósitos; Banque Franco-Portugaise d’Outre-Mer became a branch of Caixa Geral; on July 1, 2000, the Macau branch of Banco Nacional Ultramarino became a bank incorporated in Macau SAR under the name Banco Nacional Ultramarino S.A., but remained wholly owned subsidiary of Caixa Geral de Depósitos, retaining until 2010 its functions as a note issuer and Agent of the Treasury.
  • 2002 - Caixa Geral acquired majority ownership (64.8%) of the South African focused bank holding company - Mercantile Lisbon Bank Holdings Limited (MLBH), now known as Mercantile Bank Holdings Limited, which operates the Mercantile Bank.


MOP$100 banknotes issued by BNU

The Monetary Authority of Macao has authorized two banks to issue banknotes denominated in Macanese pataca, the Bank of China and Banco Nacional Ultramarino S.A., CGD's subsidiary in Macau.[2][3] Owing to Macau's Portuguese colonial past, the languages on the banknotes feature Portuguese as well as Chinese.

The Banco Nacional Ultramarino introduced its first pataca notes in 1906, in denominations of 1, 5, 50 and 100 pataca. The next year it introduced 10 and 25 pataca notes. The BNU began to issue lower-value notes with 5, 10 and 50 avo notes in 1920, and 1 and 20 avo notes in 1942. In 1944, it introduced a 500 pataca note. After 1952, coins replaced denominations below 10 patacas. The bank discontinued the 25 pataca note in 1958.

Previous note designs included the coat of arms of Portugal; the current issue BNU's corporate logo has replaced the coat of arms.

The current issue of BNU banknotes is:

Banco Nacional Ultramarino 2005 Series Banknote
Value Dimensions Color Obverse Reverse Printed Date
MOP$10 138 × 69 mm Yellow/Purple Statue of Deusa A-Má of Macau BNU building August 8, 2005
MOP$20 143 × 71.5 mm Violet Macau International Airport August 8, 2005
MOP$50 148 × 74 mm Brown Sai Van Bridge August 8, 2009
MOP$100 153 × 76.5 mm Blue Largo do Senado August 8, 2005
MOP$500 158 × 79 mm Green Macau Tower August 8, 2005
MOP$1000 163 × 81.5 mm Orange Macau Cultural Centre August 8, 2005

The 2005 series of BNU was printed by Hong Kong Note Printing Limited - Hong Kong.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mambu ma Khenzu, E. 2006. A Modern History of Monetary and Financial Systems of Congo, 1885-1995. (Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen), p. 132.
  2. ^ "BNU Banknotes Online Exhibition". Banco Nacional Ultramarino S.A. (Macau). Archived from the original on 7 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-06.
  3. ^ "Issuance of banknotes". Bank of China (Macau). Archived from the original on 2008-06-11. Retrieved 2008-11-06.

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