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Written by March 21 2018 0

Medellin-based pension-fund administrator Protección announced March 16 that its full-year 2017 net income rose 34% year-on-year, to COP$343 billion (US$120 million).

Protección is one of the largest of the private pension funds in Colombia, and also owns the “AFP Crecer” pension fund in El Salvador.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 17% year-on-year, to COP$489 billion (US$171 million), with an EBITDA margin of 42%, up 6.48% year-on-year.

Commenting on the positive results, Protección cited “demographic changes that heighten the urgency to save from an earlier age, for a life expectancy that continues to grow.”

While Colombian gross domestic product (GDP) grew by a weak 1.8% last year, key financial markets outperformed, as the S&P 500 stock index soared 22% and Colombia’s “Colcap” stock index gained 12% last year, the company noted.

Protección administers three funds – “obligatory” pensions (contributions from workers and employers); “voluntary” pensions (contributions entirely from individuals) and worker-compensation funds (“cesantias”), collectively covering 6.7 million Colombians. Proteccion’s assets-under-management (AUM) for these three funds now tops COP$91 trillion (US$32 billion).

The “obligatory” sector accounts for the bulk of AUM, at COP$82 trillion (US$28 billion). This fund covers 4.4 million workers and 32,000 current pensioners. Proteccion has a 36% share of the Colombian “obligatory” pension market (measured by AUM) and 29.6% by number of affiliated workers.

The “voluntary” sector assets under Protección management hit COP$7.2 trillion (US$2.5 billion) in 2017, or 42.3% of the entire Colombian “voluntary” pension sector (as measured AOM) and 53.9% by number of persons affiliated, the company added.

Outlook for 2018

Meanwhile, Protección now foresees a relatively positive outlook for 2018, based on assumptions including three more interest-rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve and better GDP growth in Colombia this year.

“We agree with [Colombian government] and International Monetary Fund forecasts indicating [Colombian] GDP growth between 2.8% and 3%” this year, according to Protección.

“As for the [Colombian national] pension system, we are sure the next government will make adjustments [following this spring’s elections],” the company added.

“We have to face the reality of longer life-spans. The portion of adults in the general population will more-than triple by 2050 in Latin America -- from 16.5 million today to 55.8 million -- in contrast to general population growth of only 20%.

“These factors will force us to act in advance -- to develop complementary models for pensions as well as [to improve] public education about savings,” the company added.

Written by March 21 2018 0

Medellin-based multinational utilities giant EPM announced March 20 that full-year 2017 net profits rose 19% year-on-year, to COP$2.2 trillion (US$772 million).

As a result, the city of Medellin – EPM’s sole owner -- netted COP$1.2 trillion (US$421 million) in profit-sharing, accounting for roughly 20% of the city’s total finances.

EPM also invested COP$2.5 trillion (US$877 million) in water, power and sewage infrastructure in Antioquia last year, the company added. Of that total, COP$1.7 trillion (US$596 million) went into the continuing construction of the US$5 billion, 2.4-gigawatt “Hidroituango” hydroelectric plant in Antioquia, due for initial start-up at year-end 2018.

“When EPM does well, Medellín and its inhabitants win, because there are more resources via transfers for social programs and for the development of the city,” the company added.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 27% year-on-year, to COP$3.1 billion (US$1.08 billion).

Despite profit improvements, Colombian revenues actually declined 12% year-on-year, to COP$7.4 trillion (US$2.6 billion) because of the impact of relatively rainy 2016 (helping hydropower output) versus the relatively drier 2017.

Consolidated revenues (all subsidiaries included) were COP$14.9 trillion (US$5.2 billion), of which EPM’s Colombia parent contributed 48%, foreign subsidiaries 35%, national energy subsidiaries 15% and national water subsidiaries 2%, according to the company.

EPM general manager Jorge Londoño de la Cuesta added that 2017 delivered the highest net profit in company history, mainly thanks to “proper management of costs and expenses.”

Corporate-wide debt-to-EBITDA ratio improved to 3.43 in 2017 versus 3.69 in 2016

Total asset value rose 10% year-on-year, to COP$47.3 trillion (US$16.6 billion), while equity grew 5%, to COP$20.9 trillion (US$7.3 billion), the company added.

Written by March 17 2018 0

Medellin-based gold miner Mineros SA announced March 16 that its full-year 2017 net profits in Colombia rose 16% year-on-year, to COP$114.7 billion (US$40 million).

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) in Colombia hit COP$187.9 billion (US$65.8 million), or 48% of sales.

Corporate-wide, consolidated net income rose 32% year-on-year, to COP$117 billion (US$41 million), while consolidated EBITDA rose 17%, to COP$283 billion (US$99 million).

Total gold output rose 8.7% year-on-year, to 208,054 ounces, while average sale price rose 4.1%, to US$1,250/ounce.

Commenting on the results, Mineros noted that world gold prices at year-end 2017 hit US$1,302 per ounce, up 13% year-on-year; average 2017 gold prices were US$1,257.

Relatively strong gold prices came in reaction to falling values of the U.S. dollar along with international political troubles, including threats of war between the USA and North Korea, the company noted.

Meanwhile, world gold production last year reached a new record of 3,268.7 tons, “marginally higher than that observed in 2016 (3,263 tons),” Mineros noted.

“From the point of view of demand, the global manufacture of jewelry increased by 4% to 2,135.5 tons,” according to Mineros.

“This is the first annual increase in this item since 2013, when the demand for gold for investment fell 23%, passing from 1,595.5 tons in 2016 to 1,231.9 tons in 2017.

“Central banks continued to increase their gold reserves for the eighth consecutive year, but at a slower pace than the one observed the previous year, buying 371.4 tons compared to the 389.8 tons purchased in 2016.

“The demand for gold for the technology industry and for dentistry increased 3% compared to that observed in 2016, going from 323.4 to 332.8 tons. These changes generated a net reduction in demand close to 7%, going from 4,378.20 tons in 2016 to 4,071.7 tons in 2017,” Mineros noted.

In Colombia, Mineros SA’s mainly alluvial gold production remained flat year-on-year, at 89,709 ounces. Underground gold production in Colombia fell 14% year-on-year, to 13,664 ounces.

In Nicaragua, production at its Hemco subsidiary rose 22% year-on-year, to 104,681 ounces of gold equivalent, according to the company. Mineros added that in 2018, the company will concentrate greenfield exploration mainly in Nicaragua.

Socially Responsible Mining

Meanwhile, Mineros continues to support environmentally and socially responsible mining in Colombia – in part by eliminating toxic mercury from is mainly alluvial operations, in contrast to criminal and reckless mining practiced by others.

Among Mineros social-environmental projects in 2017:

1.A “business strengthening” program, which last year provided financial credits and consulting to 25 entrepreneurial companies, “aimed at developing skills that not only help them to be better entrepreneurs but also better citizens.”

2. Apicultural production project: This program – supported in part by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s “Legal Gold” program -- continues to grow, with 100 families associated to the ASAPIBAS (Association of Beekeepers of the Lower Cauca and Southern Bolivar) cooperative in 20 villages near El Bagre, Nechí, Zaragoza, Anorí and Caucasia, Antioquia. These cooperatives produced 13 tons of honey last year, netting close to COP$271 million (US$95,000) in supplemental income.

These families also recently founded three laboratories for the production of bee-biological nuclei, “in order to continue growing and populating their apicultural units. Also, 120 new hectares were reforested in order to increase the floral supply available, while also serving as an environmental contribution for the region, rehabilitating areas [wrecked] by informal mining,” the company added.

3. Business and human rights project with the United Nations: “We continue supporting the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in actions for the construction of peace and citizen coexistence” in mining areas, Mineros noted.

This project “supported the training of 50 members of the Committees of Coexistence of El Bagre that participate in the formulation of development programs with a territorial approach, while six education and recreation campaigns were carried out to generate bonds of trust, confidence and coexistence in neighborhoods of El Bagre and Zaragoza.”

4. Mining legalization: In 2017, Mineros provided technical-assistance loans to the informal miner group EMIJOM (Empresa de Mineros de Jobo Medio-Emijom) "for the improvement of ore beneficiation processes, in order to increase gold recovery and avoid the use of mercury."

5. Wetlands program: During 2017, Mineros helped clean 14 hectares of water and water-supply access pipes in natural marshes, working jointly with the communities of Sabalito Sinaí, Guamo-Guachí, El Pital, San Pedro and La Esperanza.

“In the same way, the community of Puerto Gaitán worked on cleaning the waters of the La Esperanza swamp,” with Mineros payments for this project generating extra income for local workers while also boosting environmental protection, the company added.

6. Conservation of river turtles: “In 2017, communities from the municipalities of Nechí, Zaragoza, Caucasia and El Bagre participated in nine conservation-center operations, achieving the release of 1,300 individuals of this species,” according to Mineros.

7. Fish farming and repopulation program: “Fulfilling the environmental management plan, during 2017 the repopulation of the Bocachico species was continued -- considered of great importance in the diet of the riverside populations and also because Bocachico is classified as an endangered species. With the participation of the fishing communities of Nechí and the National Authority of Aquaculture and Fisheries (AUNAP), we introduced 500,000 Bocachico fingerlings in strategic wetlands including La Taburetera, El Sapo, Corrales and La Esperanza,” according to Mineros.

8. Reforestation program: “In 2017, we planted about 120,000 trees of different native species on 60.5 hectares of land left behind after the alluvial operation (involving hydraulic landfills),” the company noted.

9. Agroforestry plots: This program added 48 more plots in 2017, “all built in the recovery zones left by the [alluvial] production units. In agroforestry systems, there are about 750 hectares [of reforested plots], where honey is produced, along with yam, yucca, banana, corn, rice, fruit and vegetables in home gardens. These activities are complemented with artisanal fishing, poultry, pigs, rams and cattle,” according to Mineros.

10. Rubber plantations: As of 2017, “the population of rubber trees planted amounted to 450,000 trees in about 1,000 hectares. Of these, the first 28,000 trees entered latex production,” the company added.

Written by March 16 2018 0

Medellin-based recycled plastics textile manufacturing specialist Enka Colombia announced March 15 that its full-year 2017 net profit fell to COP$1.7 billion (US$595,000), down from COP$10.6 billion (US$3.7 million) in 2016.

Colombia’s weak economy in 2017 combined with a 25% drop in domestic demand for textiles hurt Enka sales and profits -- but growing exports helped to compensate for domestic declines, according to the company.

Operating revenues rose 10% year-on-year, to COP$357 billion (US$125 million), once excluding the negative impact of sales terminations in economically wrecked “socialist” Venezuela.

Exports (excluding Venezuela) now account for 48% of Enka sales, up from 41% in 2016, according to the company. Sales to Brazil rose 29% year-on-year, while sales of filament for the fisheries industries in Perú, Chile and Spain also rose, according to the company.

México and the USA also boosted purchases of certain Enka fibers for production of tires and specialty clothing, the company added.

Following US$100 million invested in high technology, Enka is now the leading recycler of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic from plastic bottles -- turning this waste material into novel textiles for clothing as well as specialty filament for tire manufacture.

“Our company is totally immersed in the global economy, taking raw materials from Asia, Europe and the Americas and then transforming and distributing products to clients in 19 countries,” according to Enka.

Today, 51% of its products are made from recycled plastics. But this is about to grow thanks to further investments in machinery that will convert not just plastic bottles but also plastic caps and labels into textile material, according to Enka.

This new process will start-up in second-half 2018, producing a recycled resin of “excellent quality and contributing to the sustainability of the plastic sector in Colombia,” according to the company.

Enka now has two PET recycling plants with capacity to process 34,000 tonnes per year; its national recovery system also is capable of collecting and reprocessing more than 1 billion PET bottles every year, according to the company.

Growing environmental consciousness around the world is helping to boost this business, further spurred by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) initiatives that have been embraced by the Colombian government.

Thanks to advanced technology investments, product innovations and productivity gains, “we have developed a wide portfolio of differentiated products that meet the needs of the most profitable market niches, thus reducing our exposure to Asian commodity producers,” according to Enka.

Novel textile materials generated COP$246 billion (US$86 million) in sales last year, up 4% year-on-year, accounting for 69% of total sales.

Meanwhile, Enka’s virgin PET sales would have been even greater in 2017 except for the situation in Venezuela, the company added.

Industrial thread 2017 sales grew 8% by volume and 18% by revenues year-on-year, with 85% of those sales going to export markets.

While filament sales were hurt by the plunge in Colombian textile production, filament sales to Brazil and Argentina helped compensate. As a result, filament sales showed net drop of 2% year-on-year, while Colombia sales dropped from 22% of sales in 2016 to just 15% of sales in 2017.

Thanks to investments in “EkoPET” technology, industrial thread modernization and self-generation of electric power, Enka added that it has boosted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) by 80% over the past eight years.

For 2017, EBITA came-in at COP$23 billion (US$8 million), up 4.7% year-on-year when excluding Venezuela..

Gains in cash-flow also cut financial debt, so that by year-end 2017, Enka’s debt ratio fell to 1.6-times EBITDA, according to the company.

Written by March 16 2018 0

The Chamber of Commerce of Medellin for Antioquia (CCMA) projects that Antioquia likely will see 3% growth in gross domestic product (“PIB” in Spanish initials) this year, up from 2.2% last year.

As noted in a March 15 bulletin from Confecamaras (the Colombian national association of chambers of commerce), Antioquia out-performed Colombia nationally last year, with 2.2% GDP growth locally versus just 1.8% nationally.

As for 2018, the Medellin chamber foresees 3% GDP local growth thanks to “lower interest rates, growth in industrial exports, better prospects for private investment and public spending,” the report noted.

In a related report posted to the Medellin chamber’s web-site (http://www.camaramedellin.com.co/site/Noticias/Desempeno-economico-de-Antioquia-y-perspectivas.aspx), CCMA noted that exports from Antioquia grew 3.3% last year – to US$4.478 billion. Gold, fruits (especially bananas), coffee, vehicles, flowers, clothing, plastics, machinery and essential oils were the leading export products.

Meanwhile, copper exports jumped by 126% year-on-year --mainly to Spain and Singapore – while textile exports grew 15%, mainly to Brazil, Ecuador and Mexico, according to CCMA.

While local government spending grew 4% here, up from 2.4% in 2016, “industry, commerce and construction showed lower growth because of slow growth in internal demand and the negative impact of the [2017] tax reform, affecting personal consumption,” the CCMA report notes.

Investment in private corporations last year grew 18.6% year-on-year, by COP$1.01 trillion (US$353 million), with management consulting, road transport, metal-mining, machinery installation and maintenance, lumber and fisheries, health-care, and telecommunications taking leadership among all investment categories, according to the report.

However, industrial production in metro Medellin declined by 4.6% year-on-year through September 2017, while local industrial energy demand fell 7.9%, the report noted. The biggest declines were in textiles, iron works, foundries and clothing manufacture, according to CCMA.

While 139 companies relocated to Medellin from elsewhere in Colombia (mainly Bogota and Barranquilla) during 2017, 133 other companies decided to leave Medellin, mainly going to Bogota, Cali, Barranquilla and Cartagena, the report found.

Factors attracting companies to Medellin include relatively favorable access to clients and suppliers, the existence of local companies providing required services and information, relatively good urban and social infrastructure, qualified labor, relatively efficient public administration, and the existence of research centers (such as universities), the CCMA report found.

However, negative factors cited by companies included relative costs of public services, relatively high land costs, lack of local natural-resources, labor costs, lack of fiscal incentives and some concerns about security.

Page 5 of 15

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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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