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Written by October 26 2018 0

Cemex LatAm Holdings reported October 25 that its Colombia division saw third quarter (3Q) 2018 sales dip 5% year-on-year, to US$134 million, but operating earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 11%, to US$26 million.

Gross profit also rose 11% year-on-year in Colombia, to US$53 million, while operating margin rose 15.9% year-on-year, hitting 19.4%, according to the company.

Meanwhile, for the first nine months of 2018, Colombian sales fell 8% year-on-year, while operating EBITDA here fell 12%, according to the company.

Volume sales of grey cement fell 8% year-on-year in 3Q 2018, while concrete sales fell 11% and sales of aggregates also fell 12% during the latest quarter here, according to the company.

Despite the year-on-year declines, “cement volumes increased 7% sequentially during 3Q 2018, reflecting the acceleration of industry demand after the [Colombian presidential] elections,” according to the company.

“Our EBITDA margin improved by 3.5 percentage points during 3Q 2018, due to higher prices, lower costs for cement maintenance and non-recurring effects that negatively impacted our 3Q 2017 results, partially offset by higher freight costs and lower volumes.”

Meanwhile, construction permits for Colombia’s social-housing market have increased by double-digits. This should boost demand for cement, the company noted.

“The new government recently announced the pillars of its housing strategy in the next four years, with a goal building 1 million new housing units in this period, or approximately 250,000 per year, including a new lease-with-purchase option and a new home-improvement program, along with other initiatives,” Cemex noted.

“During fourth-quarter 2018, we expect the residential sector to stabilize, supported by low interest rates, as well as improvements in the consumer confidence indicator and the home-purchase intention indicator.”

As for Colombia’s highway-infrastructure-building sector, “we continue shipping our products to several ‘4G’ [fourth-generation highway] projects that include the ‘Mar 1’ highway [in Antioquia], the Magdalena 2 highway, the Bucaramanga-Barranca-Yondó highway and the Bucaramanga-Pamplona highway,” according to Cemex.

“We estimate that 4G projects will demand 430,000 cubic meters [of cement] in total for 2018, of which we already have 130,000 cubic meters [in market share] and we expect to supply approximately 30,000 cubic meters more during 4Q 2018.

“We expect the infrastructure sector to increase by double digits during 4Q 2018; our volumes should continue to be supported by projects under execution,” the company added.

Written by October 25 2018 0

Colombia’s corporate oversight agency Superintendencia de Sociedades (SuperSociedades) announced October 25 that Medellin-based clothing manufacturer Everfit won approval for its bankruptcy reorganization plan.

According to SuperSociedades, “the [reorganization] agreement has an expected duration of six years and 10 months. This [deal] seeks the conservation of about 100 direct jobs and the productive [capacity].”

The deal also includes continuation of pension payments for 60 employees, at least through end-2018, according to the agency. “The payment to workers will be made in a single installment this year,” according to the agency.

SuperSociedades director Francisco Reyes Villamizar added that “the reorganization process seeks to recover and preserve the company as an economically productive unit, normalizing its commercial and credit relationships, through the operational and administrative reorganization of its assets or liabilities."

Everfit, founded here in 1923, filed for bankruptcy on July 29, 2016, as it was unable to compete against a flood of cheap textile and clothing imports -- mainly from China and elsewhere in Asia. Its web-page today features a “Compra Colombiano” (Buy Colombian) message (see photo, above). 

Written by October 22 2018 0

Medellin’s annual list of wine-tasting events featuring local and international wines continues to grow -- along with workshops led by leading producers and marketers.

One such event here on October 20 -- organized by local daily newspaper El Colombiano -- featured a lecture by Carlos Bravo, owner and founder of the “Viña Sicilia” vineyard and production facility at Olaya, Antioquia ( about 15 minutes from Santa Fe de Antioquia).

Viña Sicilia is a boutique grower and producer, making only about 4,000 bottles per year of its most famous, award-winning “Bianco” white wine, a 50-50-blend of “grillo” and “catarratto” grapes that trace their origins from Italy’s Sicily region, Bravo explained here.

This wine just won a “double gold” award at the August 2018 annual “Vinus” competition in Mendoza, Argentina, where producers from 17 nations put their wines through blind tastings for 63 international judges, he explained.

That was just the latest of 64 international prizes for various Viña Sicilia wines this year, following 43 prizes in 2017 and 22 in 2016, he added. Besides “Bianco,” Viña Sicilia also produces Malbec, rose, Syrah and late-harvest varieties.

While the ambient temperatures around Viña Sicilia are relatively hot and dry -- the terrain is at just 550 meters above sea level and not far from the equator – the nearly complete “Hidroituango” hydroelectric dam is now raising the water level of the Cauca River adjacent to the vineyard.

This vertical and horizontal rise in Cauca water levels next to Viña Sicilia likely will drop average ambient temperatures by about 2 degrees Celsius, hence favoring the evolution of wine grapes, he said.

Also favoring production of finer wine-quality grapes is the sedimentary nature of the local soils -- left by thousands of years of rising and falling Cauca water levels -- as well as a relatively high luminosity enhanced by reflected sunlight off the waters, he said.

Meanwhile, with each year that passes, Colombia’s wine growers are gaining more experience, raising hopes that Colombia might one day be better known for producing several world-class wines, he added.

Villa de Leyva Wineries

Meanwhile, Boyaca boasts a growing number of specialist vineyards and wine producers, with two of them in the vicinity of the picturesque town of Villa de Leyva.

One of these is Viñedo Ain Karim, producers of the “Marques de Villa de Leyva” brand wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot varieties -- with vines imported from France -- as well as a Chardonnay from grapevines that came from California’s Napa Valley, according to the company.

“Ain Karim is an unusual vineyard, at 2,110 meters above sea level, nestled in the Andes mountain range,” according to the owners. “This place -- with ideal microclimate and calcareous [chalky] soil, with very high solar radiation and low temperatures at night -- incorporates a wine tradition from the colonial days, when the Spanish friars cultivated vines to make their own wines [for Catholic masses],” according to Ain Karim.

Meanwhile, the neighboring “Umaña Dajud” winery in nearby Sáchica – with vineyards at just-above 2,000 meters – has six hectares devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon (red and rose varieties) with most of the vines coming from France, according to the owner.

Another two hectares at Umaña Dajud are devoted to recently planted vines for a France-derived Chardonnay, but these aren't yet in production, the company added.

Elsewhere in Boyacá is the relatively large “Marqués de Puntalarga” winery at the little town of Nobsa, specializing in Pinot Noir and Riesling varieties -- thanks to its climate and soil conditions.

The “Rubi” and “Coral” Pinot noir varieties trace their vine origins to Borgoña, France, first planted at the Puntalarga winery in 1984, according to the owner.

As for the two types of Riesling wines, these grapes trace their origins to the Rhine Valley in Germany, also first planted at Puntalarga in 1984. Yet another novel wine offered at Puntalarga is a “Boyacau Nouveau” variety similar to Beaujolais, according to the owner.

Meanwhile, Puntalarga is organizing a consortium of 35 small grape producers in the nearby “Valle del Sol” area, aiming to expand total production capacity for Pinot noir, Riesling and Silvaner varieties.

Casa Grajales: Large-Volume Producer

Elsewhere, near Cali (Colombia's third-largest city), Casa Grajales -- Colombia’s biggest-volume marketer of both imported and locally produced wines – is now offering 27 national wine varieties and 17 imports, according to the company

“Using a combination of imported must (wine-grape juice) and locally produced grapes, we have been making wines since 1978, when we produced 1 million bottles that year, in 13 varieties,” according to Grajales.

Today, Grajales boasts of 4 million bottles/year of local wine production capacity, with 10 million bottles/year of total bottling capacity, plus 3,000 hectares of proprietary grape and fruit production as well as 1,300 employees.

Grajales offers five Colombia-produced wines under the “Valtier” brand: two whites including “Vino Blanco Semi-Seco” and "Vino Blanco Seco;” one rose dubbed “Vino Rose Semi-Seco;” and one red: “Vino Tinto Semi-Seco.”

Under its separate “Reservado” brand, Grajales offers two types: a white “Vino Blanco Seco” and a red "Vino Tinto Seco.”

Under its generic “Tinto” brand, Grajales also offers what it calls a “classic” red table wine, while its “Rose” generic brand is described as a “classic” table wine.

The company also makes four cooking wines (red and white varieties) as well as five fairly sweet wines (red and white) for the Catholic mass, plus two “fruit wines" (apple and peach, both sweet) and three other very sweet wines including a Moscatel variety.

Rounding-out the Grajales offer of nationally produced wines are two sparkling wines and two “Don Luis” branded premium wines.

Santander Wineries

Colombia’s other two wineries are both very small, and both in Santander: Viñedo Sierra Morena, maker of the “Perú de La Croix” red wines, and the nearby Viña Aldana, which combines boutique red-wine making with an “eco-oriented” hotel, according to the owner. 

Written by October 08 2018 0

Medellin-based multinational retail giant Exito announced October 5 the long-awaited opening of Colombia’s biggest shopping mall: the “Viva” center in the Medellin suburb of Envigado.

“With an investment of approximately COP$660 billion [US$217 million] and a commercial area of 137,000 square meters, Viva Envigado -- the largest commercial and business complex in the country -- opened its doors to the public,” according to Exito.

One-third of the commercially leased area is dedicated to entertainment and gastronomy, while 6,000 new jobs are created at the center, according to Exito.

“Global trends show us that shopping centers must evolve from a commercial building to a ‘human place’ where customers have experiences,” according to Exito’s Juan Lucas Vega, vice president of real estate.

Via a free internet connection, the mall also delivers a “digital layer that transmits segmented content and commercial ‘scoops’ directly on customers' smart-phones, complemented by digital, interactive screens that allow customers to know locations and marketing activities,” according to Exito.

The shopping center includes four anchors:

1. Cine Colombia, with 16 movie theaters, including the first IMAX theater in Antioquia;
2. A renewed ‘Homecenter’ hardware super-store;
3. Exito’s ‘Wow’ hypermart, including office co-working spaces; and
4. Decathlon, “one of the largest sports stores in the world,” making a first-ever appearance in metro Medellin.

In addition, for the first time, Grupo Éxito’s private-label clothing lines “Arkitect” and “Bronzini” will have an exclusive store, while Exito’s “Finlandek” line of kitchen and home accessories – together with “Electrodigital” appliances – likewise will have a dedicated retail outlet.

“These two [clothing and home-appliance] stores, totaling more than 300 square meters, are the start of an innovation laboratory with which we want to reach our customers in a different way and provide a more personalized, superior experience,” added Jacky Yanovich, Exito’s vice president of sales and operations.

The new shopping center also includes “Viva Park,” described as “the largest amusement park located within a shopping center, with 6,000 square meters outdoors that will become a place of entertainment for the whole family,” according to Exito.

A “Bistró Street” section includes 21 open-air restaurants, in addition to a food court with 18 brands.

A “Viva Sports’ section includes a “Smartfit” gym, five synthetic soccer fields, a jogging track, a multifunctional play-court, a beach volleyball court and a climbing wall.

The building complex also incorporates a photovoltaic array covering 1,700 square meters, generating approximately 451 kilowatt-hours of power or around 20% of common-area power requirements during peak solar-radiation hours.

Besides having a direct connection to the zero-emissions “Metro” rail-line station, “the construction of Viva Envigado is environmentally responsible thanks to saving 35% of water in the bathrooms;130 bicycle parking lot spaces; 140 exclusive parking spaces for low-emission electric vehicles; and 70 carpooling parking spaces,” according to Exito.

Written by October 08 2018 0

Canada-based gold miner Continental Gold this month organized memorial masses for four of its employees murdered by FARC “dissident” groups in Antioquia -- and then announced the hiring of a top-flight security agency that aims to prevent future such incidents.

Three of the four victims – geologists Camilo Andrés Tirado (31), Laura Alejandra Flóres (27) and Henry Mauricio Martínez (27) -- were murdered September 19 near Yarumal, Antioquia, by “dissidents” belonging to the “36th Front” of the narco-terrorist FARC group -- several leaders of which have been given seats in the Colombian Congress via a “peace” deal negotiated by former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

The fourth Continental Gold employee victim -- Oscar Alarcón Gallo – was murdered in another terrorist attack a week earlier in Buritica, Antioquia.

“Special masses were recently held in both Medellín and Buriticá to honor the lives of Laura, Henry, Camilo and Oscar and were attended by our employees, members of the military and police, and members of the local communities,” according to the company.

“Additionally, on Wednesday, October 3, a memorial ceremony was held at our Buriticá [mining] project site in which trees were planted to commemorate the lives of each of the victims. These trees will continue to grow in honor of their legacy.

“With the goal of strengthening and reshaping our security team and protocols, the company has engaged Control Risks, the world’s foremost security and risk consultancy, to lead efforts in restructuring our security department and reassessing our security risk matrix.

“The company is also pleased to announce our new security manager, Juan Carlos Chacón, who joins us from Control Risks and has an impressive military and private sector background with a strong understanding of international standard best practices.

“In addition, the security manager reporting line has now been elevated directly to our country manager, Luis Germán Meneses, former executive vice-president and chief operating officer of Cerrejón, Colombia’s largest private coal producer and exporter and one of the largest integrated mining companies in the world.

“Together, with our community partners, we will persevere in helping to build a bright future at Buriticá,” the company added.

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NEW GUIDE "Avifauna de Colombia" (link by clicking on book)

SILLETEROS PARADE 2016 by JOHN AND DONNA STORMZAND (click to enlarge)

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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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