Oriental CEO: ‘The stars are aligning for Puerto Rico’s economic growth’
The confirmation of Puerto Rico’s debt restructuring plan is one of several positive circumstances that is positioning the island for an economic rebound in coming years, but which will require unity between the public and private sectors.
José Rafael Fernández, CEO of OFG Bancorp, said Puerto Rico’s economy is already in a “very different situation” than it was five years ago when the central government declared bankruptcy, with the allocation of millions in federal reconstruction and COVID-19 aid.
“The approval of the debt adjustment plan is an important milestone. It’s like the stars are aligning and everything is working at the same time, which puts Puerto Rico in an extremely advantageous and positive position,” he said during a call with members of the local media to discuss results for the fourth quarter and year ended Dec. 31, 2021.
The parent company of Oriental bank reported total core revenues of $141 million during the last quarter of 2021, compared to $134.7 million in the third quarter and $132.8 million in fourth quarter of 2020.
For the year, the bank’s total core revenues were $536.6 million compared to $519.3 million, the year prior. OFG completed the $92 million redemption of its outstanding preferred stock and its $50 million common stock repurchase plan.
“Our core business demonstrated strong momentum as we ended 2021 and enter 2022. Results for the fourth quarter and year underscore our opportunities for the future. We are extremely proud of our accomplishments in 2021 and look forward to continuing to invest in improving the customer experience and growing together with our clients and the communities we serve,” he said.
In his call with reporters, Fernández said the coming years will requires a Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico that makes sure that “reconstruction funds are used well, that revenue received by the government is invested in rebuilding Puerto Rico, to stabilize or restructure the education system, and to complete the privatization of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.”
“I think last night’s decision is one more chapter, but the next ones will give the unique opportunity for Puerto Rico not to remain with its arms crossed, but to make sure that federal funds have an effect,” Fernández said.
He also said the private sector, including banks, must pitch in as well by working with the government to promote the island as a place to invest.
“We at Oriental are more than ready to help and collaborate and join this effort by putting our capital at the disposition of our customers, so they can buy their home, their cars, so they can develop and grow their businesses and be more competitive on a global scale,” he said.
Finally, he said the private sector “has to change its mentality from one of playing defense to one of playing offense from a business point of view, because we have a great opportunity to help and collaborate in Puerto Rico’s long-term economic growth.”