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Colombia's banks: Foreign affairs

Sep 25, 2013

Colombia’s largest financial institutions are on an acquisition spree in Central America. With tough regulations at home, the diversification is welcome

By Katie Llanos-Small

Bancolombia's announcement in February that it planned to spend $2.1 billion buying HSBC's assets in Panama was always going to create a stir.

Not only was the acquisition the costliest ever undertaken by a Colombian bank, it also included proposals for a revival of the target's original, pre-HSBC branding.

The deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, is the highest-profile in a series of acquisitions by Colombian banks. The country's lenders are diversifying, growing, and grabbing opportunities too good to turn down.

The three biggest banks - Bancolombia, Banco de Bogotá and Davivienda - have all announced or closed acquisitions in Central America in the past 18 months.

These may take time to digest but there are strong indications that the wave of expansion is far from over.

"When an acquisition opportunity appears for sale, we analyze it and if we think it's a good...

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