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Written by July 27 2018 0

Cemex Latam Holdings -- a division of Mexico-based cement giant Cemex -- announced July 26 that second-quarter (2Q) 2018 operating earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) for its Colombia operations dipped 4% year-on-year, to US$21.6 million.

Sales in 2Q 2018 in Colombia also dipped 5% year-on-year, to US$129 million, while operating cash flow dipped to US$22 million, from US$23 million in 2Q 2017, according to the company.

Colombian sales volumes of cement, concrete and aggregates all fell between 9% to 13% year-on-year, mainly because of weakness in Colombia’s construction sector, according to the company.

However, year-on-year deliveries of cement for highways and infrastructure sectors were actually improving during the latest quarter, the company added. Meanwhile, prices for gray cement in Colombia during 2Q 2018 rose 8% year-on-year (measured in Colombian pesos).

As for the current situation facing Cemex Colombia’s in-limbo cement plant at Maceo, Antioquia (see: "Cemex Colombia Loses Appeal on Price-Fixing; Former Execs Charged in Maceo Plant Scandal," Medellin Herald, June 22, 2018), Cemex revealed that it’s now trying to work-out a new lease-extension deal with Colombia’s Sociedad de Activos Especiales (SAE) for lands around the Maceo plant.

SAE supplanted the now-liquidated Direccion Nacional de Estupefacientes (DNE) agency, which originally had moved to seize lands around the plant because of alleged tax fraud by the former owner of the properties.

Since then, Cemex Colombia had enjoyed a temporary “lease contract” with DNE to continue construction and an eventual planned-but-not-yet-executed start-up for the plant. But that contract expired July 15, 2018.

“Despite the expiration of the validity of the lease agreement, Cemex Colombia estimates that the lease agreement has the benefit of a renewal prerogative that operates in accordance with the terms and conditions of the lease agreement and by the Ministry of Justice, and that we also have the right to continue using Maceo’s assets in accordance with the terms [of the original lease] until the end of the domain termination process,” according to Cemex Colombia.

“Although the SAE questions the validity of the documents signed by the DNE, the SAE and Cemex Colombia continue to work on a long-term scheme that allows the Maceo plant to be commissioned while the extinction-of-domain process [that is, the economic seizure of property assets due to the tax-fraud allegations] is resolved,” according to the company.

Written by July 19 2018 0

New York-based global high-tech consultancy Accenture on July 18 officially announced the opening of its “Advanced Technology Center” at Medellin’s “Ruta N” landing space, aiming to serve information technology (IT) customers throughout the Americas.

“The center’s professionals will work with clients in a wide range of industries, including finance, telecommunications, consumer goods, natural resources, mining and energy, using the latest technologies available in the market and smart tools to help customers seize opportunities, enter new markets, increase the speed of commercialization and outperform competitors,” according to the company.

The new Advanced Technology Center “includes software developers, consultants, technical specialists, data scientists and experts in artificial intelligence, automation of robotic processes and other innovative technologies,” Accenture added.

“Accenture plans to hire 500 people for the Center and for its other operations in Colombia this year, seeking not only experienced professionals, but also new talent recruited from local universities with which it has close ties.

“The company plans to build local teams with advanced skills in core and new technologies, and with expertise in the most advanced delivery models, such as Agile, continuous integration, DevOps and highly automated processes.”

“There is a great amount of technological talent in Medellin, and we are pleased to offer IT professionals the opportunity to develop their careers at Accenture. Those who join our team will have access to the latest technology and will receive training for personal and professional development opportunities, as well as expand their commercial, industrial, technical and leadership skills,” added  Marco Ribas, president of Accenture in Colombia.

Ruta N director Alejandro Franco added that Accenture already employs some 225 technical workers at Ruta N and that thanks to the new Advanced Technology Center, Accenture aims to generate some 1,000 more jobs here over the next two years.

Written by July 18 2018 0

Tango fanaticism in Medellin is perhaps second only to Buenos Aires -- and only partly because the world’s most famous tango singer Carlos Gardel tragically died in a plane accident here on June 24, 1935.

Since then, numerous tango clubs have sprung-up around Medellin, eventually prompting the city to organize the popular, annual Medellin Tango Festivals each June.

These events and venues draw thousands of national and international spectators and dozens of internationally famous tango stars (see "Medellin’s Annual Tango Festival Shines This Month," Medellin Herald, June 15, 2016, and "Tango in Medellin Continues to Thrive; Salon Malaga, Patio del Tango Local Favorites,” Medellin Herald, August 31, 2016).

This fame continues to grow in unexpected ways, as evidenced by a July 18, 2018 report in Portafolio, one of Colombia’s two major national business newspapers.

That report recounts the founding and growth of Medellin-based shoe-maker D’Raso, which specializes in shoes for tango, flamenco, jazz, salsa and ballet -- for customers in cities as far-flung as Paris, London, Madrid, Rome, New York, Montreal and Melbourne, where the company has specialist sales representatives.

According to the company, its hand-made shoes employ “exclusive designs evolved from quality and functionality,” tailor-made for each dancer.

“In our D’Raso shoes it is essential that all seams are resistant and that all its parts are reinforced, to ensure that the shoes between jumps and movements absorb shock and energy without breaking, of course, without losing the comfort and flexibility that our brand offers," according to the company.

“Our shoes make a difference by being specially designed to dance. Softness, flexibility, comfort and light weight allow you to more easily perform your pivot movements, turns, rotations, insteps, jumps among other movements.”

The family-owned company first ventured into footwear in 1962. But a succeeding generation --- led by current owner Robiro Ocampo (himself a tango dancer) – spotted an international market for specialist dancing shoes.

“The main characteristic of a D'Raso shoe is that it should be comfortable and should be adjusted to the foot as if it were a glove,” according to the company.

“When a shoe is not adjusted to the foot, this forces the dancer to make an extra effort to maintain posture while making turns or fast movements. We know how important it is for you to be comfortable when it comes to dancing, so our team is committed to do our best to meet your expectations, providing a product of excellent quality,” according to the company.

Written by July 18 2018 0

Medellin-based motorcycle assembler/wholesaler Auteco announced July 10 that it just opened a massive, 9,125-square-meters parts-distribution center in the neighboring suburb of Rionegro, Antioquia.

Auteco – born in Medellin in 1941 – currently builds and markets major motorcycle brands for all of Colombia, including Kawasaki, Bajaj, Kymco, KTM, and Stärker, the latter an electric-powered, zero-emissions motorcycle. The distribution center not only will handle parts distribution for those brands, but also for other major motorcycle brands including Victory.

The company also is a major supporter of  Medellin’s pioneering bilingual-education program for underprivileged children (see “Medellin’s Fundacion Marina Orth Seeks Volunteer English Teachers, Mentors, Donors,” February 20, 2017, Medellin Herald).

The new distribution center employs 218 workers and will handle 65,000 different parts and accessories, according to the company. The center also includes a novel “extended warehouse management” computerized logistics system, as well as an automated, vertical conveyor system, for which Auteco was a pioneer in all Colombia.

The center also includes 16 loading docks for trucks serving 1,400 retail destinations nation-wide. On average, the center each month will receive 35 shipping containers of various motorcycle parts, then handle 14,000 monthly requests for some 22,000 outgoing parts from the tens of thousands of individualized slots at the warehouse, according to the company.

 

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.

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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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