Bancolombia 4th-Qtr Profit Rises on Surge in Lending

March 2, 2006 (Bloomberg) -- Bancolombia SA, Colombia's biggest bank by assets, said fourth-quarter profit rose as improving business and consumer confidence spurred a surge in borrowing.

Net income rose 1.9 percent from a year earlier to 256.6 billion pesos ($114.2 million), based on figures that adjust for a merger last year, the bank said in a statement. For the full year, profit rose 18.2 percent to 946.9 billion pesos. Shares rose 26 pesos, or 1.4 percent, to 19,020 pesos at 11:12 a.m. New York time, on top of a 2.3 percent gain yesterday.

``The earnings are about 10 percent more than we expected,'' said Manuel Rey, an analyst at Bogota-based brokerage Asesores en Valores SA. The adjustment for the merger with Corporacion Financiera Nacional y Suramericana SA, Colombia's biggest financial corporation, and Conavi Banco Comercial y de Ahorros SA, a mortgage lender, resulted in a smaller gain from the year-earlier quarter, he said.

Colombia's banks are benefiting from rising demand for consumer and business credit amid the fastest economic growth in a decade. Confidence in the $117 billion economy is growing after President Alvaro Uribe helped curb violence during three years in office, such as cutting the murder rate in half.

Bancolombia lending grew 14.8 percent to 17.92 billion pesos in the fourth quarter from a year earlier. Corporate loans rose 9.76 percent in the quarter to 9.56 billion pesos while retail and small and medium-sized enterprise loans increased 21.9 percent to 4.9 billion pesos.

Bancolombia is part of Grupo Empresarial Antioqueno, a Medellin-based industrial group of more than 100 companies.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Helen Murphy in Bogota at;

Last Updated: March 2, 2006 11:25 EST