Fitch: BAM Acquisition Should Have No Impact on Bancolombia's Creditworthiness

NEW YORK & BOGOTA, Colombia--()--On Sept. 11, 2015, Bancolombia announced an agreement to acquire an additional 20% stake in Banco Agromercantil de Guatemala (BAM) which would bring the bank's share of BAM's equity to 60%. Once the transaction is approved by regulators in both countries and closed, Bancolombia would gain control of BAM and consolidate it as a new subsidiary. This transaction, expected to cost up to USD180 million, had been anticipated since Bancolombia announced the acquisition of 40% of BAM in 2012 and stated that it would obtain a majority stake within five years.

Bancolombia has strengthened its regional presence through the acquisition of Banistmo (formerly HSBC Bank Panama) and this investment in BAM. The acquisition is well in line with Bancolombia's broader strategy as Panama and Guatemala are its key growth markets in the region while its operations in El Salvador are well consolidated. Execution is always a risk in M&A transactions but Bancolombia appears to have the needed know-how, resources and focus to mitigate this risk now that the integration of Banistmo has greatly succeeded. Banistmo has improved its performance and entered a business development phase after migrating its IT systems and ending its operational dependence on the former parent.

Based on interim financial reports from Bancolombia, BAM and internal calculations, Fitch estimates that the impact of this transaction on Bancolombia's capital will be manageable, while the bank's overall profitability should not be overly affected. Recent changes in regulation, macroeconomic conditions and Bancolombia's strategic actions are affecting the bank's capital and performance metrics.

The introduction of international financial reporting standards (IFRS) since January 2015 has had a mixed impact; net income (i.e. retained earnings, capital) is higher but risk-weighted assets (RWA) are also higher (mainly due to higher goodwill). In addition, the depreciation of the local currency since 2013 has also had a mixed impact as it bloats USD-denominated assets abroad (i.e. with higher RWA) but also heightens the importance of the revenues they generate (i.e. higher return from Central America). Finally, Bancolombia has recently announced that it will divest a 50% stake in a consumer joint venture (Tarjeta Tuya), thus unconsolidating this operation and reducing RWA.

Assuming sustained strong growth due to the depreciation effect, the overall impact on Bancolombia's Fitch Core Capital (FCC) ratio is expected to range between 30bp and 50bp, while profitability should remain in line with current levels. Accordingly, Bancolombia's FCC could - in the short run - decline below 10% but gradually inch back towards the 10%-10.5% range as profitability remains stable and depreciation of the local currency (and its bloating effect on RWA) recedes.

Thus, while Bancolombia improves its franchise and competitive stance in Central America as it faces a more volatile operating environment, the acquisition would have only a marginal effect on its capital and profitability. Thus, in Fitch's opinion, this transaction will have little to no impact on the bank's creditworthiness and should therefore not affect its ratings. Fitch will nevertheless continue to monitor the bank and its performance to verify that it continues to evolve within our base case scenario.]

Additional information is available on www.fitchratings.com

Related Research:

Fitch Upgrades Bancolombia S.A.'s VR and IDR; Outlook Stable (July 21, 2015)

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Fitch Ratings, Inc.
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or
Andres Marquez
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or
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Contacts

Fitch Ratings
Diego Alcazar
Director
+1-212-908-0396
Fitch Ratings, Inc.
33 Whitehall St
New York, NY 10004
or
Andres Marquez
Director
+571 326 9999 Ext 1220
or
Media Relations:
Alyssa Castelli, +1 212-908-0540
alyssa.castelli@fitchratings.com