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The boys from Bogotá: Colombia invests in the region

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Colombia is becoming an investment powerhouse. This year, Colombia expects to receive $10 billion direct investment in oil and mining alone. And in recent years, it has recorded outward investment of about as much as it has received from other countries.

A lot of Colombian capital is going to nearby Central America, where it is now getting close to Mexico for second place in total investments in the region, behind the United States, But the rate of growth Colombian investment in Central America is faster than that of any of its rivals.

This is clear from the $800 million acquisition last week of HSBC units in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras by Bogota-based Banco Davivienda.

Last year, Banco de Bogotá completed its $1.9 billion acquisition of BAC Credomátic, a financial group, which is the region’s biggest credit card issuer.

But the big transactions are only part of the story.

Many smaller Colombian companies are likewise expanding into Central America.

Among other recent deals, iron and steel maker Acesco acquired Pazco, which distributes products for Panama's booming construction industry. Colombia’s Lúker now owns 60 percent of the pananamian coffee market, thanks to its acquisition of Café Durán. Grupo Nutresa has added new cookie and chocolate factories in Costa Rica and Panama. Tecnoquímicas, a manufacturer of pharmaceuticals, acquired Teramed in El Salvador, to add to operations in Panama, Guatemala and Honduras. EPM, the municipal utility of the Colombian city of Medellín, controls electricity distributors in Guatemala, El Salvador in Costa Rica.

Meanwhile, Costa Rica's Corporación Megasuper, a unit of Colombia's Olímpica, is planning to invest $30 million over the coming years to update its supermarkets.

These and other Colombian investments - including the merger of regional airline TACA and Bogota-based Avianca - are clear signs that Colombian investors are flying high in Central America.