The world's third biggest bank, HSBC Holdings, is opening an office in Colombia as the industry continues to attract foreign banks and face consolidation.
Banking regulators gave London-based HSBC permission to open a representation office Tuesday, the financial superintendent said in a statement.
The bank already has a small presence here through its Panama-based Grupo Banistmo, which it acquired recently for US$1.77 billion (euro1.4 billion). Banistmo owns several branches in Colombia.
Colombia's strong economy and growth in lending activity has attracted foreign banks, including Spain's Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA and New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co.
After taking over Banistmo, HSBC Chief Executive Michael Geogheagan said his bank hoped to continue acquiring banks in Colombia.
Among potential buyout targets is state-owned Bancafe SA, which the government plans to privatize next week.
The Colombian banking industry has undergone a wave of consolidation, as cash-rich banks took advantage of rising revenue in 2005 to acquire smaller rival banks.