OREANDA-NEWS. Fitch Ratings has upgraded Banistmo, S.A.'s (Banistmo) long-term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to 'BBB+' from 'BBB' and its long-term National rating to 'AAA(pan)' from 'AA+(pan)' following Fitch's peer review of Panama's largest banks. The Rating Outlooks are revised to Stable from Positive. See the full list of rating actions at the end of this release.

The upgrades follow an equivalent action in its shareholder Bancolombia's ratings (for more information please see 'Fitch Upgrades Bancolombia S.A.'s VR and IDR; Outlook Stable' dated July 21, 2015, available at www.fitchratings.com.).

Banistmo is considered to be a key subsidiary to its parent due to its strategic role in Bancolombia's expansion and diversification in the region. Fitch expects that Banistmo's revenue contribution will increase over time, while the significant reputational risk that its default would pose to Bancolombia justifies Banistmo's ratings being equilized with those of its parent.

KEY RATING DRIVERS - IDRs, Support Rating, National Ratings

Banistmo's IDR is driven by the potential support it would receive from its parent, Bancolombia, S.A. ('BBB+'/Stable Outlook), if needed.

KEY RATING DRIVERS - Viability Rating (VR)

Banistmo's VR is highly influenced by its strong franchise. It is one of the largest banks in Panama and has good network coverage within a competitive banking system. The bank's strategic objectives are clear and execution has proven to be effective.

Funding is one of Banistmo's strengths due to its granular deposits base and high ability to raise funds. The bank's ample network of service points helps to maintain a diversified and a relatively stable deposits base. Other long-term funding sources contribute to managing term mismatches.

Banistmo has improved its capitalization ratios, which are now comparable to its rating peers ('bbb' category). Fitch expects that Banistmo's Fitch Core Capital (FCC) ratio will stand at around 14% at the end of 2015. Nevertheless, as internal capital generation is lower than asset growth, FCC should gradually decline over the foreseeable future but remain above 12%.

Banistmo's profitability has improved since it was acquired by Bancolombia in 2013. The bank's performance was boosted by important enhancements in overhead cost efficiency, a net interest margin (NIM) above the industry's average, and steady loan impairment charges.

Loan quality ratios improved, although it still compares negatively with local peers. The bank still has room for improvement and continues enhancing its risk control tools, underwriting standards and collection processes

KEY RATING DRIVERS - Support Rating (SR)

Banistmo's SR of '2' denotes that in Fitch's view the bank is a key subsidiary for Bancolombia.

RATING SENSITIVITIES - IDRs, Support and National Ratings

Banistmo's IDRs, Support Rating, and National ratings are sensitive to a change in Fitch's opinion on the parent's capacity and/or propensity to support its subsidiaries.


In Fitch's view, VR upgrades are unlikely in the foreseeable future. Over the medium term, however, Banistmo's VR could benefit from a sustained improvement in loan quality and profitabilty.

Conversely, Banistmo's VR could be pressured if sustained asset quality deterioration undermines the bank's financial performance, causing a decline in its FCC ratio or weakening its reserve coverage. More specifically, Banistmo's VR could be downgraded if its FCC-to-weighted assets and/or tangible common equity-to-tangible assets ratios consistently fall below 9% or 7%, respectively; and/or if operating ROAA remains consistently below the market average.

Fitch has taking the following rating actions:
--Long-term IDR upgraded to 'BBB+' from 'BBB'; Outlook revised to Stable from Positive;
--Short-term IDR affirmed at 'F2';
--Support Rating affirmed at '2';
--Viability Rating affirmed at 'bbb-';
--Long-term National rating upgraded to 'AAA(pan)' from 'AA+(pan)'; Outlook revised to Stable from Positive;
--Short-term National rating affirmed at 'F1+(pan)'.