November 8, 2012 / 6:00 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 2-Colombia says brokerage collapse contained, no contagion

* No requests for central bank support, Cardenas says

* So far no signs of contagion, according to Stock Exchange

* Investors say systemic risks unlikely, but still worry

By Helen Murphy and Nelson Bocanegra

BOGOTA, Nov 8 (Reuters) - The collapse of Colombian brokerage Interbolsa is unlikely to affect the overall market and other financial entities have not wobbled or sought extra liquidity, Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas said on Thursday.

In a bid to calm market concern that Latin America’s fourth-biggest economy could face a liquidity squeeze after its biggest brokerage failed to make a scheduled payment, Cardenas said the market was operating normally.

Cash offered by the central bank - in a tandem measure to shore up any brokerages facing problems - was not used, he said.

“The information we have is that things are normal,” Cardenas said on local Caracol Radio. “There haven’t been any requests for support, that means there haven’t been any problems. Small brokerages are operating in stable conditions.”

The government on Wednesday began the process of liquidating the assets of troubled Interbolsa to pay investors and other obligations after it was unable to pay 20 billion pesos ($11 million) to a local bank.

Colombian capital markets have not reacted with big swings and investors are not overly worried about a systemic problem. Yet some are nervous Interbolsa’s troubles could have a domino effect on other entities in payment chains and there may be other brokerages that made risky plays similar to that of Interbolsa.

Interbolsa’s cash squeeze began when it became too dependent on liquidity from repurchase agreements, or repos, backed by the price of individual company shares. When confidence in the shares dropped, sources of liquidity dried up.

One market source told Reuters that Interbolsa on Wednesday failed to make another payment, of 3 billion pesos ($1.6 million), to a second institution.

“There are various entities that Interbolsa has failed to pay and that’s the best way to create concern in the market,” the source told Reuters.


The financial market regulator intervened on Friday and essentially took over Interbolsa, with about 50,000 clients and one-third of daily operations on the stock market.

The brokerage has ceded control of its local bond portfolio to Bancolombia SA.

The liquidation does not affect Interbolsa’s parent company Grupo Interbolsa.

“The problem was concentrated in Interbolsa so there should be no worrying spillover to other brokerages,” Juan Pablo Cordoba, head of the stock exchange, said in a separate interview with Caracol Radio.

“We are convinced there won’t be, but if there are liquidity problems, the central bank will provide liquidity.”

The central bank on Wednesday offered an additional 300 billion pesos ($165 million) of liquidity to brokerages via repurchase agreements backed by corporate debt holdings.

As of this morning none of that had been tapped, Cardenas said.

Colombia’s IGBC index rose 1.29 percent to 14,149.96 on Thursday.

The last time the market regulator was forced to take control of a financial entity was in 2011, when it liquidated the Proyectar Valores brokerage over poor management.

Proyectar was considerably smaller than Interbolsa and so had little impact.

Colombia’s capital markets have risen steadily over the past several years as a U.S.-backed offensive against Marxist rebels and right-wing paramilitaries made the nation safer for business. Local companies are increasingly going public to tap local resources for investment abroad.

Foreign direct investment this year is expected to reach a record $17 billion, mostly in oil and mining sectors. In 2002, when many international investors rejected Colombia because of violence caused by decades of war, the economy attracted just $2 billion.

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