As reported this week by Colombian newspaper, La República Banco Santander recently requested authorization from the Colombian authorities to re-operate as a bank in the country, an announcement which has been a surprise to many, as the Spanish bank sold its local assets to Chilean bank CorpBanca, just eighteen months ago, explaining that it would concentrate its operations in those places which were reporting better results.
The Colombian Financial Superintendence authorized the Spanish institution to establish the bank, which would in this way seek to restore its place in the country’s financial market. According to La Republica, the Spanish company's strategy would focus on recapturing large clients and on reappointing the principal managers who were responsible for managing the largest accounts, something which Santander already seems to be doing. According to sources familiar with the transaction, the bank “is hiring former employees, which means their clients will follow.”
Daniel Lozano, director of Serfinco Economic Studies, sees the return of Santander as proof that foreign companies continue to see the local banking system as highly attractive, which highlights that there is plenty of room still available within the sector.
The low level of financial access and high intermediation margins are some of the opportunities which Colombia offers, and would be precisely what Santander, which during its earlier stage grew in line with its objectives, is looking for. However, firstly the Colombian crisis of 1999 and later, the Spanish banking problems in the current European crisis, slowed Santander’s pretensions, forcing it to exit the industry in Colombia.
Santander returns with capital stock of 90.5 billion Colombian pesos and, in accordance with the institution’s composition, Santander LatAm Banks Administration (Ablasa), the subsidiary that manages Santander Group's operations in the region, holds 94.8% equity interest, while Santusa Holding, a company which administers securities of Spanish banks, will hold 5.1% of the total. The rest is owned by Jaime Romagosa Soler, Juan Carlos Moscote Gneco and Henry Forero Ramírez with 0.002% each.
However, even though it has already received authorization, there are still a few registration steps missing, so Santander‘s return will still take some time.