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Written by July 05 2018 0

Medellin-based national electric-power grid operator and wholesale trading center XM announced July 5 the debut of an ultra-high-tech control center that will help maintain and improve power reliability and rationality for all Colombia.

According to XM, the new control center is “the most modern of [all] America, with technological platforms of latest generation, ensuring that during [at least] the next 12 years [we can meet] the challenges of the operation and integrated control of the resources of the Sistema Interconectado Nacional [SIN, the national power grid.]”

The new control center also includes two high-tech training rooms that “allow [trainees] to simulate in real time the operation of the entire SIN in a controlled environment,” according to XM.

“We monitor and control around 26,000 electrical variables measured throughout the depth and width of the national geography, employing multi-site technology for the continuous operation and phase measurement as well as maximum observability of the network, identifying [power-disruption] phenomena impossible to detect with traditional technologies,” according to the company.

XM’s system coordinates 66.89 terawatt-hours/year of power production and dispatch, involving more than 55,000 coordinated power moves annually by 112 players in the Colombian power market, including 74 power generators, 60 centrally-dispatched plants, 146 non-centrally-dispatched plants, 16 power transmitters, 32 power wholesalers, 26,000 kilometers of 110-kilovolt power lines, 249 power substations and the power interconnection with Ecuador.

“The new control center of the National Dispatch System will have two updates of hardware and software every four years, which will guarantee the latest available versions and will ensure the best technology to meet the challenges of the operation, maintainance and integrated control of the SIN until 2030,” XM added.

“The global electricity industry is facing one of its biggest changes [in history] and Colombia is not immune to this reality,” said XM general manager María Nohemi Arboleda.

“For this reason it is essential to have very strong institutions that incorporate new elements and actors in the most appropriate and harmonious ways possible. At XM we have been developing initiatives and projects for several years that point in that direction -- and the new control center that we are inaugurating today is proof of this,” Arboleda added.

Written by June 22 2018 0
Cemex Colombia – a subsidiary of Mexican multinational cement producer Cemex Inc. and Cemex LatAm Holdings – announced June 22 that it failed in its final appeal over a cement price-fixing charge brought by Colombia’s Superintendencia de Industria y Comercio (SIC).
 
The company will pay a COP$923 million (US$316,476) fine as a result of the final ruling by Colombia’s Council of State (Consejo de Estado), which also upheld fines against alleged co-conspirators including Medellin-based Argos (which has denied the charges) and Bogota-based Holcim Colombia (a division of Swiss-based LafargeHolcim).
 
According to Cemex Colombia's June 22 filing with Colombia’s Superintendencia Financiera (Superfinanciera), the price-fixing was alleged to have occurred between May and December of 2005. However, the latest Council of State ruling doesn’t cover separate SIC allegations of price-fixing between 2010 and 2012 -- charges which Cemex continues to dispute in separate proceedings.
 
Maceo, Antioquia Scandal Continues
 
On another front, Colombia’s Attorney General (Fiscal General) announced June 12 that it has brought criminal charges against Édgar Ramírez Martínez (former Cemex Colombia vice president of planning) and Camilo González Téllez (former Cemex Colombia vice president legal affairs) over the Maceo, Antioquia, cement-plant land-acquisition scandal (see Medellin Herald 02/09/2018).
 
Ramirez and Gonzalez both faces charges of illegal enrichment as well as “unfair administration” over allegedly illegal acquisition of lands around the mostly complete, US$420 million Maceo cement plant, which hasn’t started-up and remains in legal limbo pending operating-permit approvals.
 
The Attorney General also brought illegal-enrichment and money-laundering charges against Eugenio Correa Díaz, the legal representative of “C.I. Calizas SA,” which is alleged to have illegally sold land to Cemex for the Maceo plant.
 
The lands originally held by C.I. Calizas had been subject to another legal proceeding (“extinction de dominio”) over non-payment of Colombian taxes on allegedly phony exports of auto parts by former C.I. Calizas owner Jose Aldemar Moncada, who was assassinated two years ago.

According to the Attorney General, Ramirez, González and Correa “advanced negotiations to acquire several assets” of C.I. Calizas -- including lands that supposedly should have been in control of Colombia’s tax authorities because of the earlier tax-evasion charges against Moncada.
 
“According to the investigation, the executives of Cemex and Eugenio Correa were aware of this situation and despite this they insisted on the negotiation, under which the cement company would have disbursed more than COP$40 billion [US$13.7 million], money that went into the personal accounts of Correa Díaz, and from which apparently one part was used to pay obligations of José Aldemar Moncada, while the rest was converted into cash without having entered a single peso into C.I. Calizas S.A.,” the Attorney General charges.
 
Cemex LatAm Holdings earlier brought details of this situation to the attention of the Attorney General, as the alleged scheme “caused serious damage to property and reputation, both to the company and its shareholders,” according to the Attorney General.
Written by June 21 2018 0

Medellin’s business promotion agency ACI (Agencia de Cooperacion e Inversion de Medellin y el Area Metropolitana) and Netherlands-based Sana Commerce jointly announced June 21 the launch of Sana’s e-commerce consulting business at the high-tech “Ruta N” business center here.

Attending the launch was Netherlands Ambassador to Colombia JJ Roodenburg as well as Sana Commerce director Cas Nieskens.

According to the company, over the past 10 years, Sana has developed e-commerce strategies based upon enterprise resource planning (ERP), tapping the Microsoft Dynamics systems, applications and products (SAP) software.

Besides the new office in Medellín – targeting customers throughout Latin America -- Sana also has branches in the Netherlands, USA, UK, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Germany, Austria and Australia, according to the company.

“The city of Medellín was chosen as the location for our newest office for its emphasis on IT [information technology] and engineering education, startup environments and entrepreneurship, as well as for its supportive government and favorable business environment,” Nieskens added.

Medellin’s northern South America location and time-zone “allows Sana Commerce to efficiently deliver technical solutions to a rapidly growing number of customers across the Americas,” the company added.

“Our e-commerce solution leverages existing business logic and data in powerful and user-friendly web stores. This lets our clients focus on improving customer experience, streamlining sales processes, and increasing sales volume and frequency.”

The company touts having developed more than 1,200 “web stores” worldwide, with support services including “online marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) advice, hosting, design and online payment providers.”

“We would like to extend our gratitude to the Colombian government, and in particular to the ACI, ProColombia, the Dutch Embassy and the Holland House for their support in our research and start-up phase,” added Sana chief operating officer Tim Beyer.

Written by May 18 2018 0

Medellin-based e-commerce, logistics, warehouse, document security, billing and customer-communications specialist Cadena announced May 17 that its full-year 2017 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 40% year-on-year, with EBITDA margin at 13.4%.

Sales also rose to COP$184 billion (US$63 million), while billings for innovative services rose 22% year-on-year, according to the company.

Cadena credited the EBITDA improvement to the launch of innovative digital products and services last year -- and it expects further net growth this year of around 12%.

Besides aiming to transform its businesses via “100% technology,” Cadena also is reorganizing its business units into four divisions, plus opening two new logistics/distribution centers this year -- in addition to the four existing centers -- which will enable deliveries to all municipalities in Colombia.

“Since we launched our company more than 30 years ago, we had never imagined that we were going to convert ourselves into a completely digital operation,” added Cadena president Juan Manuel del Corral.

“We have evolved from having 100% of our sales via paper products, to the situation today where more than 60% of our sales come from digital services and logistics,” he added.

Thanks to this digital conversion, 22% of all billings in 2017 came from new businesses, which enabled Cadena to occupy strategic market niches as well as add 14 new products, according to the company.

Cadena now has 1,800 employees, four logistics plants, a network of 594 vendors, and a technology infrastructure that enables analysis of more than 2 billion data items each month for more than 740 private and public-sector clients, according to the company.

“With the development of e-commerce platforms, Cadena will become one of the biggest providers of this service and a major ally of the business sector of Colombia,” according to the company.

Among Cadena’s big corporate clients: Une, DirectTV, Telefonica, Tigo, Comcel, ETB, EPM, Emcali, Comfenalco, Comfama, Colsubisido, Carrefour, Exito, Proteccion, Porvenir, Colseguros, Colpatria, Santander, Sudameris, BBVA, Banco de Bogota, Grupo Bancolombia, Coomeva, Metro de Medellin, Nutresa, Sura, ICETEX, ICFES, Copa Airlines, Argos, Postobon, Imusa, Grupo Familia, Hewlett-Packard, Invesa, Procter & Gamble, Camara de Commercio de Medellin, Banco de Occidente, AV Villas, Davivienda, Citibank, Helm Bank and HSBC.

Written by May 18 2018 0

Medellin-based insurance, pensions and finance giant Grupo Sura announced May 15 that its first quarter (1Q) 2018 consolidated profit fell 23.5% year-on-year, to COP$310 billion (US$108.5 million).

Consolidated revenues for the company also dropped 2.2% year-on-year, to COP$4.76 trillion (US$1.66 billion).

Despite the corporate-wide dip in revenues and profits, “positive performance of Suramericana’s and Sura Asset Management's operations partly offset the impact of market volatility on the yields of the investments,” according to the company.

“This external effect was reflected in lower yields for the company’s own investment portfolios that back up the insurance and pensions business, and was also a sharp contrast to this indicator’s positive performance a year ago."

Those investment yields fell by 47% year-on-year, to COP$253 billion (US$88.7 million), according to the company.

“In addition, Suramericana’s decision not to participate in the pension D&S [disability and survivorship] insurance business in Colombia to focus on other solutions more aligned with its strategies also led to lower consolidated revenue,” according to Sura.

Nevertheless, Suramericana enjoyed consolidated revenue growth of 3.6 % year-on-year, hitting COP$3.36 trillion (US$1.17 billion). Suramericana also saw 2.8 % growth in retained premiums, “due significantly to the performance in Chile and Mexico, and the positive dynamics of the health operations in Colombia,” according to Sura.

“This growth came together with a lower claims rate and higher efficiencies, which translated into underwriting profits that improved 31% [year-on-year] compared to the first quarter of 2017.”

Meanwhile, the Sura Asset Management division – which administers pensions, savings, and investments – saw a 6% increase in revenue from commissions in the mandatory-pension business and an even-better 9.7% revenue boost in the voluntary-pension business.

In that division, 82% of its managed pension funds had returns that were “higher than the average for the markets where they operate,” according to Sura. As a result, that division closed 1Q 2018 with COP$393 trillion (US$141 billion) in managed assets, covering 19.2 million clients.

Liabilities decreased by 2.8%, to COP$41.58 trillion (US$14.95 billion), thanks to a reduction of COP$201.9 billion (US$69 million) in financial liabilities. “The behavior of assets and liabilities was reflected in a 4.2% reduction in equity, to COP$25 trillion (US$9 billion),” according to the company.

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About Medellin Herald

Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

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