Corpbanca (CORPBANC), the lender controlled by Chilean billionaire Alvaro Saieh, agreed to buy Helm Bank SA (PFBHELMB) for $1.28 billion to become the sixth-biggest bank in Colombia.

Corpbanca signed an agreement with the owners of 91 percent of Helm’s ordinary shares and will make an offer to minority holders in Colombia for the rest of the shares, according to a statement sent to Chile’s securities regulator. Corpbanca, Chile’s fifth-largest lender, also agreed to pay $17 million for 80 percent of Helm’s insurance unit.

The Chilean bank has led acquisitions in Colombia worth $2.53 billion since agreeing to buy Banco Santander SA’s local unit in December as it seeks to tap growth. Lending in Colombia rose 17 percent in July from a year earlier as the International Monetary Fund forecasts growth of 4.3 percent this year.

“After the takeover, Corpbanca will be well-positioned,” said Valeria Marconi, an analyst at Bogota-based brokerage Correval SA. Corpbanca is paying “a fair price, below the price-to-book they paid for Santander.”

Corpbanca will pay about $0.28 per Helm share, according to a separate filing today in Colombia, or 503 pesos at today’s exchange rate. This converts to 1.9 times book value, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Corpbanca paid about 2.4 times book value for Santander Colombia, according to a statement sent in June when it completed the purchase.

“The lower price-to-book is due to Helm’s financial performance,” Marconi said. Helm’s return on equity is 10.3 percent, compared with an average 16.7 percent for Colombian banks, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Andes Banking

Helm Bank shares rose 0.2 percent to 489 pesos at 11:21 a.m. in Bogota, increasing this year’s rally to 58 percent. Helm has been the best performer on the benchmark IGBC Index this year amid speculation it would be bought. Corpbanca rose 0.5 percent in Santiago to 5.80 pesos.

The number of cross-border mergers and acquisitions among financial companies in the Andes region rose to 18 in the past 12 months worth $6.2 billion, up from 11 in the previous year and 10 the year before, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Corpbanca’s takeover of Helm, Colombia’s eighth-biggest lender, will allow it to jump to sixth from 10th in terms of lending in the country, according to the latest government data, which is from July.

The bid tops the purchase announced last year of Banco Santander’s Colombian unit, which a group led by Corpbanca bought for $1.23 billion, and Bank of Nova Scotia’s takeover of Banco Colpatria in October 2011 for about $1 billion.

The planned purchase of a 5 percent stake in Corpbanca by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, announced Oct. 4, will be undertaken as part of the sale of as much as $600 million in new shares in Chile, Corpbanca said today.

Corpbanca’s Colombian unit plans a capital increase of as much as $1 billion, of which Helm’s owners will contribute $440 million and Corpbanca will pay $285 million, the filing said.