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Helm Bank Gains in Colombia After Report of Possible Sale

Helm Bank SA, whose stock is Colombia’s best performer this year, rallied to a four-week high after a newspaper reported that the Colombian lender is in talks over a possible sale to Chile’s Corpbanca.

Helm rose 5.8 percent to 510 pesos in Bogota trading, its highest level since June 20. The stock has increased 65 percent this year, the most among the 38 companies on Colombia’s IGBC stock index.

Helm is one of two banks with which Corpbanca is in talks for a potential acquisition, Diario Financiero reported today, citing people close to the discussions it didn’t identify. The newspaper didn’t name the other potential target. Corpbanca is also interested in buying a brokerage firm, and an announcement may be made next month, Diario Financiero wrote.

“It makes sense that Corpbanca is one of the players pushing for Helm,” David Pelaez, an analyst at Bolsa y Renta in Medellin, said in a phone interview. “If a foreign bank comes and tries to compete with locals, it hasn’t been successful earning market share, so it has to do it through acquisitions.”

Corpbanca declined to answer e-mailed questions on the Diario Financiero report. Helm Bank didn’t immediately respond to a phone message requesting comment.

Helm Bank’s President Carmina Ferro said in a February interview that shareholders including the Miami-based investor William Wilde have declined approaches by prospective buyers, including Chilean and Brazilian groups.

Corpbanca closed in June the acquisition of 95 percent of Banco Santander Colombia SA for $1.23 billion in cash, becoming the first Chilean financial services company to complete a cross-border acquisition.

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