By Nelson Bocanegra
BOGOTÁ (Reuters) – Grupo SURA, Colombia’s largest investment holding company, plans to allocate most of its projected cash for this year, around 250 billion pesos ($60.8 million), to reduce debt in the face of higher costs from interest rate hikes, a senior executive said on Monday.
The conglomerate – made up of some 43 companies, including Bancolombia, Grupo Argos, Grupo Nutresa, the insurance company Suramericana and the pension fund manager Sura Asset Management, more than doubled its net income in the first quarter to 429,271 million pesos ($104.4 million).
For all of 2022, the firm maintained its projection of a net profit for the controller of around 1.7 billion pesos, equivalent to an increase of between 10% and 15%, said Ricardo Jaramillo, vice president of business development. and finances of Grupo SURA.
“We have a focus on continuing with the organic growth of the businesses and how to also accelerate the deleveraging of Grupo SURA, so in this capital allocation, the use of those 250,000 million pesos will surely be very much destined towards lowering the debt”, the manager said in a telephone interview with Reuters.
“We are aware that we are in an environment of rising interest rates that is going to have some impact on companies’ debt costs, and we must be careful not to increase debt at this time,” he explained.
Grupo SURA’s net financial debt closed the quarter at 4.5 trillion pesos, down 4.4% compared to last December.
Jaramillo highlighted that its insurance subsidiary, Suramericana, will invest this year between 80 and 85 million dollars in the nine countries of the region in which it operates, focused on its operating model and technology.
Meanwhile, its Sura Asset Management unit will allocate approximately 60 million dollars to the development of new channels, products and funds for seed capital.
The difficulties associated with the war in Ukraine and the lockdowns in China, which have impacted international trade and logistics chains, would not affect the results for the rest of the year, the manager said.
“We are seeing that there are a few quarters aware of these possible volatilities, but there are a few quarters in which we expect these good results to continue,” he concluded.
Grupo SURA is present in 11 Latin American countries with investments in the banking, insurance, pension, savings, food, cement, energy and infrastructure sectors, as well as in a corporate venture for innovation and technology companies.
The tycoon Jaime Gilinski consolidated a 34.58% stake in the total of Grupo SURA through three public acquisition offers in which he disbursed some 1,380 million dollars, surpassing Grupo Argos, which owns 27.79% of the investment holding company .
(Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra. Editing by Luis Jaime Acosta)