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Grupo AVAL: The accomplishment of shopping in Central America

Article - April 8, 2014
The biggest holding company of Colombia continues to expand its business in the region
The businessman whom Latin Trade magazine named ‘Most Dynamic CEO of 2011’ is Luis Carlos Sarmiento Gutiérrez, President since 2000 of Colombia’s largest holding: Grupo Aval de Acciones y Valores.
Engaged in a broad range of financial activities, including banking, telecoms and real estate, Aval Group has seen its regional presence grow significantly thanks to Mr. Sarmiento Gutiérrez’s vision and ambition to make strategic investments that “are not merely symbolic” but rather strong and “controlling”. Of course, with 30% of Colombia’s financial system’s assets already under the Aval umbrella (its major subsidiaries include Banco de Bogotá, Colombia’s second largest bank, as well as Banco de Occidente, Banco Popular, and Banco AV Villas), the group president was all but forced to look beyond his country’s borders. 

“We do not only talk
about the coming international expansion, we make it real”
“We realized that inorganic expansion was going to be difficult, given our large market share,” he says. “So we began looking at Central America and we came to the conclusion that entering each country there wouldn’t make much sense because they’re so small.

However, buying a regional bank would be logical so we waited. Soon enough BAC Credomatic, which was not long before acquired by GE Capital Global Banking, was up for sale in 2010. The stars aligned and we said ‘That’s exactly what we’ll buy’.” US$1.9 billion later, Grupo Aval had a very strong foothold in Central America.
The top bank in Costa Rica and a market leader in Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua, where BAC Credomatic trailed slightly was in Guatemala and Panama. To up the ante in those countries, last year Aval acquired Reformador in the former and BBVA in the latter. Also in 2013, Banco de Bogotá’s Porvenir pension fund administrator bought out Horizonte from BBVA for US$530 million. Today, the group’s portfolio includes some 10 million clients, 70,000 employees and assets worth $70 billion.