Grupo SURA gets off to a good start this year
In 2014 Grupo SURA was able to consolidate its regional presence with its strategic investments now attending 37.5 million clients in a total of 9 Latin American countries, with assets under management reaching more than COP 375 billion (USD 157 billion). The General Assembly of Shareholders declared a dividend of COP 422 per share, which is 8% higher than the dividend declared for the previous year. Fitch Ratings upgraded Grupo SURA´s international rating outlook from stable to positive. The Group got off to a good start this year, fulfilling its budgeted growth rates in terms of both its operating and portfolio performance as well as making progress with its efficiency plans at subsidiary level. Medellin, March 26, 2015 .At their annual meeting held today in Medellin, the General Assembly of Shareholders were presented with the results and achievements obtained last year, and at the same time were informed of an encouraging start to the year for the Group´s ongoing operating performance. Overall, the Group´s subsidiaries and strategic investments ended the year with a presence spanning 9 different countries, with its 50.000 employees attending a total of 37.4 million clients and assets under management of more than USD 375 billion (USD 157 billion). As recently announced, the highlights for last year were as follows: • Grupo SURA's Shareholder´s Equity came to COP 22.7 billion (USD 9.5 million), for an increase of 11.9%. • Operating income reached COP 827,337 million (USD 345.8 million). • Assets totaled COP 23.8 billion (USD 10.0 billion) for a year-on-year increase of 13.1%. • This produced net profits of COP 671.900 million (USD 280.8 million) showing a drop of 14.1% (however, upon eliminating the effect of non-recurring earnings in 2013, a year-on-year increase of 6.8% would have been obtained). • Grupo SURA´s stock prices rose by 18.7%, in the case of its ordinary shares and 12.9% for its preferred shares. • During Q3 2014 the Grupo SURA share was ranked in No. 1 place on the local COLCAP stock index, which tracks the top 20 most liquid shares on the Colombian stock exchange. • Market capitalization stands at COP 23.0 billion (USD 9.7 billion), for a 6.3% weighting of the total Colombian stock market. The aforementioned results allowed shareholders to declare an annual dividend of COP 422, showing a year-on-year growth of 8% which was much higher than the 3.66% increase in the CPI. The Chief Executive Officer of Grupo SURA, David Bojanini stated that, "the results obtained in 2014 reflect the consolidation and growth of our Latin American operations. We continue to take an optimistic view of our performance this year, especially given the results obtained for this first quarter, with our business growing in line with the budgeted levels, the progress made with our efficiency plans as well as a good level of portfolio performance". Upgraded outlook for the Group´s international credit rating In keeping with this level of financial performance, and equally important, was the international investment grades issued to Grupo SURA by Standard & Poor's (BBB) and Fitch Ratings (BBB-), both firms highlighting the sound credit profiles of Grupo SURA's portfolio companies; well-diversified sources of dividends and a track record of stability for such; adequate debt-service coverage ratio with historically low leverage ratios together with adequate liquidity and the capacity to access alternate sources of financing. Quite recently Fitch Ratings upgraded Grupo SURA's credit rating outlook from stable to positive. The corresponding official communication stated that "this decision was based on the track record of increasing dividends received, healthy levels of interest coverage and liquidity, as well as the Group´s growth strategy including acquisitions and its experience in financing its inorganic growth with an adequate combination of capital and debt." Plans for 2015 Grupo SURA remains confident that this year´s business plans shall be fulfilled and its ongoing growth sustained, this based on its portfolio companies having got off to a good start to the year. "The fundamentals of our companies continue to perform quite well. We are seeing a steady growth in our pension fund management commissions, insurance premiums, reserve requirement investments and the portfolios corresponding to our reserves, and in some cases this growth has gone over and above the projected levels. All this while maintaining strict control over underwriting risk and the loss ratio. We have also continued to enhance the efficiency indicator of our strategic investments." stated David Bojanini. From the geographical standpoint, the Company is well aware that Latin America shall pose various challenges on an economic level. However, the region´s current outlook ranges between stable and favorable especially for the member countries of the Pacific Alliance, which is where the Group´s operations are mainly located. It is also worthwhile noting that as part of these international initiatives, the Group´s subsidiary SURA Asset Management, which is the No. 1 player on the Latin American pension sector, with 17 million clients, is reaffirming its position and making progress with conquering No. 1 position on the Latin American savings sector. On the other hand, the increase with the Group´s insurance business has exceeded the market average by 3.8% (12.8% versus 9%) and now attends 10 clients in Latin America. Consequently, Suramericana has become one of the most important companies in the Latin American insurance industry. In this sense, and as yet another step taken with Grupo SURA's ongoing expansion plan and strategy, Suramericana has recently signed an acquisition agreement for Seguros Banistmo, an insurance company currently belonging to Bancolombia in Panama, which shall be taken over by the Group´s insurance subsidiary, Seguros SURA in Panama. On the other hand, the Company in its Annual Report, stated that its current priority was to consolidate its operations and ensure its ongoing organic growth, based on innovation and developing the different markets, for which it is now necessary to penetrate further into the financial services sector, with a keen eye for new business opportunities within Latin America, this as part of its overarching strategy. Changes to the Board of Directors One of the items on the agenda for the Shareholders´ Annual Meeting held today, was the appointment of a new Board of Directors, including three new members, as recently announced. The three new members of the Board of Directors are as follows: Luis Fernando Alarcón Mantilla, Sergio Michelsen Jaramillo and Jorge Mario Velásquez Botero, the first two as independent members, thus maintaining a majority of members enjoying an independent status (4 out of a total of 7), this based on the Group´s Corporate Governance standards. Consequently, Grupo SURA would like to thank Messrs. Armando Montenegro Trujillo, Hernando Yepes Arcila and Juan Guillermo Londoño Posada who have now retired after joining the Board of Directors in 2010, 2007 and 2006, respectively, and assisting the Company in what was a transcendental stage of its ongoing growth and transformation. Social Outreach Projects In 2014, Grupo SURA and its subsidiaries donated COP 13,000 million to the SURA Foundation, which in turn has invested a total of COP 17,482 million in projects relating to training initiatives to build competitiveness, sexual health education, cultural events and comprehensive community management. The Foundation is currently involved in projects being carried out in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Panama, and coordinates efforts with more than 90 social outreach organizations. The SURA Foundation mentioned various important initiatives carried out last year in its Annual Report, these including the Felix and Susana educational program consisting of innovative pedagogical methods to address issues of sexuality and peaceful co-existence, which in 2014 extended its coverage to 220 schools in 46 towns in 9 Departments Training was given to 2,717 teachers and 74,514 school children, while 20,170 adults took part in parent-teacher workshops. Furthermore, the SURA Foundation sponsored the Bilingualism for Greater Competitiveness program, which provides institutional assistance to teacher training schools with regard to teaching second languages, improving overall comprehension and fluency on the part of students and developing new teaching skills and methods. So far this program has benefited 806 students and teachers in 8 educational facilities in 8 towns in 3 Departments. Finally the Company was pleased to announce in its Annual Report that during the early part of this year it received the Gold Class distinction for sustainability from RobecoSAM for its excellent performance in having obtained the second highest score on a global level amongst companies from the Diversified Financial Service sector listed on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices. This, once again, reaffirms the commitment of both Grupo SURA and its subsidiaries with sustainable business management from the economic, environmental and social standpoints. About Grupo SURA Grupo de Inversiones Suramericana, the parent company of the SURA Business Group, is a Latin American company listed on the Colombian Stock Exchange and registered with the ADR- Level 1 program in the United States. It is also the only company from the Latin American Diversified Financial Services sector to be admitted to the Dow Jones World Sustainability Index, which monitors companies who have become global benchmarks thanks to the good practices they have adopted from the economic, environmental and social standpoints.