BOGOTA, May 16 (Reuters) - Colombia's largest holding
company, Grupo SURA, will use most of its forecast cash flow of
around 250 billion pesos ($60.8 million) to reduce debt as costs
grow amid rising interest rates, a top executive said on Monday.
The conglomerate, which holds stakes in 43 companies
including bank Bancolombia, food processor Grupo
Nutresa, and insurance company Suramericana, among
others, saw its first-quarter profit more than double to 429.3
billion pesos ($104.4 million).
The company also expects to record a net profit for the year
of around 1.7 trillion pesos, equivalent to growth of between
10% and 15%, said Ricardo Jaramillo, Grupo SURA's vice president
of business development and finance.
"We are focused on maintaining organic growth and also how
to accelerate the de-leveraging of Grupo SURA, so in this
allocation of capital, the use of those 250 billion pesos will
very surely be destined towards lowering debt," Jaramillo said
in a telephone interview with Reuters.
"We're aware that we're in an environment of rising interest
rates which is going to have some impact on companies' debt
costs," he added. "We must be careful not to increase debt at
Grupo SURA's net financial debt closed the first quarter at
4.5 trillion pesos, down 4.4% compared to last December.
Grupo SURA's insurance subsidiary, Suramericana, will invest
$80 million to $85 million this year across the nine countries
it operates in Latin America with a focus on its operating model
and technology, Jaramillo said.
Sura Asset Management will allocate approximately $60
million to developing new sales channels, products, and also use
some funds for investing as seed capital, he added.
Despite difficulties caused by the war in Ukraine and
lockdowns in China, Grupo SURA remains hopeful that its good run
will continue, Jaramillo said.
The company has a presence in 11 countries in Latin America,
with investments in sectors including finance, energy and
infrastructure, as well as others.
(Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra
Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Bernard Orr)