Saturday, November 17, 2018

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Roberto Peckham

Medellin-based multinational electric-power giant EPM on September 9 revealed in a presentation to the Medellin City Council key financial assumptions about its proposed sale of assets and other measures to cover losses arising from the Hidroituango hydroelectric project diversion-tunnel collapse.

“Among other issues, we highlight that in the case of the Hidroituango hydroelectric project, we assume that the equipment currently in the mechanical room could have suffered some damage [resulting from diversion of Cauca River water through that room], although to date we lack exact information on possible damage,” according to EPM.

To recoup losses, EPM proposes to raise about COP$7 trillion (US$2.27 billion) from asset sales, internal cost reductions and postponement of some capital projects over the next three years.

Among key assumptions to this financial-recuperation plan:

1. Hidroituango would produce its first 300 megawatts (MW) of power in December 2021, with the remaining 2.1-gigawatts of the total 2.4-gigawatts of capacity entering into service at some yet-to-be-determined dates.

2. EPM possibly would net COP$1.2 trillion (US$389 million) in insurance payoffs for infrastructure damage plus another possible COP$1.3 trillion (US$422 million) for loss-of-power sales that had been expected between 2018 and 2021 – all resulting from the diversion-tunnel collapse and subsequent postponement of power sales.

3. Total Hidroituango project costs are now estimated at COP$14 trillion (US$4.5 billion), of which COP$2.5 trillion (US$811 million) corresponds to financial costs.

4. Costs to compensate populations affected by the temporary emergency (following the diversion-tunnel collapse and subsequent measures to relocate threatened downstream populations) are estimated at COP$600 billion (US$195 million), including costs likely to be incurred in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.

5. Costs for installing transmission power lines are estimated at COP$120 billion (US$39 million).

6. Equipment down-time costs are estimated at COP$338 billion (US$109 million) in 2019.

7. Colombian national power prices are seen declining from 2021 to 2026, after Hidroituango comes back on-line.

8. Thermal power generators in Colombia are assumed to burn imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) rather than fuel-oil or domestic gas during the three-year delay in power output from Hidroituango.

9. EPM investments in drinking-water infrastructure in Colombia would continue as normal from 2015 to 2025, with current tariff structures unchanged until 2026.

10. Another 370,000 water customers would be added to EPM’s Colombia network through 2025.

11. The “Emvarias” trash-collection transfer station near Medellin would begin operations in 2021.

12. EPM would sell its Chilean water and power utilities and its 10% stake in Colombian power transmission giant ISA during 2019.

13. EPM wouldn’t lose access to financial markets to cover its debt needs.

14. EPM’s gross income would dip to COP$16.5 trillion (US$5.3 billion) in 2019, down from the COP$18.2 trillion (US$5.9 billion) initially foreseen (prior to the diversion-tunnel collapse and subsequent delay in power sales from Hidroituango). Through 2030, that initial loss of power sales (which would have started in December 2018) continues to penalize total expected revenues each year, hitting COP$27.8 trillion (US$9 billion) in 2030 – down from an expected COP$31.9 trillion (US$10 billion) in 2030, the difference explained by the tunnel-collapse financial impacts.

15. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) also take hits in most years from 2019 through 2030, although EBITDA should spike to around COP$8.8 trillion (US$2.8 billion) in 2021, EPM estimates.

16. EPM’s annual payments to the city of Medellin (its 100% shareholder) from power sales will fall in 2019, 2020 and 2021 -- compared to 2018 -- but payments then rebound and rise from 2022 onward, hitting COP$2.1 trillion (US$681 million) in 2030.

Asset-Sales Details

In an earlier, September 3 press conference, EPM general manager Jorge Londoño de la Cuesta revealed that the Medellin City Council could decide whether to approve the sale of EPM's 10% stake in power transmitter ISA and Chilean utility assets by early October.

“The sooner the better,” Londoño added, as a quick sale would overcome current market anxieties about EPM’s financial position as a result of losing an estimated COP$6 trillion (US$1.97 billion) to COP$7 trillion (US$2.3 billion) from the Hidroituango hydroelectric-dam project problems.

“We’re confident and optimistic that [the Council] will approve this in the next few weeks,” he added.

Most of the estimated revenue losses from Hidroituango problems come from an estimated three-year delay in electric power sales (COP$4 billion/US$1.3 billion), Londoño said.

The remaining losses include an estimated COP$1.5 trillion (US$492 million) to COP$2 trillion (US$656 million) in related dam-infrastructure repair costs, plus an estimated COP$500 billion (US$164 million) to COP$1 trillion (US$328 million) for compensating temporarily affected populations around the hydroelectric dam.

EPM’s proposed sale of its 10% stake in electric power transmitter ISA is likely to net about COP$1.5 trillion (US$492 million) while the sale of its Chilean water and power utilities likely will generate more than COP$2 trillion (US$656 million), he estimated.

Hence it’s possible that the entire COP$4 billion (US$1.3 billion) in lost electricity sales can be recouped by just those two asset sales, without affecting any core EPM businesses, he estimated.

In addition, EPM aims to delay about COP$2 trillion (US$656 million) of the total COP$14 trillion (US$4.6 billion) in planned infrastructure investments over the next few years. Those delays won’t significantly hurt EPM’s future power, water and sewer services, nor have any impact on current EPM customers. What’s more, these postponements won’t impede achievement of regulatory service standards, he emphasized.

In addition, to generate more savings, EPM expects to trim about COP$500 billion (US$164 million) to COP$1 trillion (US$328 million) in internal costs including cutbacks in various sponsorships and short-term contract labor over the next three years, he said.

As a result, the roughly COP$4 trillion (US$1.3 billion) gained from asset sales, plus the COP$2 trillion (US$656 million) n infrastructure investment delays, plus the up-to-COP$1 trillion (US$328 million) in internal-cost cutbacks would deliver about COP$7 trillion (US$2.3 billion ) in additional revenues – enough to cover all the expected Hidroituango losses and simultaneously ensure that the City of Medellin continues to receive its hefty annual share of EPM profits, he said.

EPM’s payments to the city (EPM’s 100% owner) currently run at about COP$4 trillion (US$1.3 billion), or about 25% of Medellin’s total annual city budget.

While EPM’s full-year 2018 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) won’t be hurt by Hidroituango costs this year, future EBITDA likely would be trimmed somewhat, although Londoño didn’t offer any estimate of the total impact.

As for when EPM will shutter the tunnel that currently diverts Cauca River water through the machine room (necessitated by the diversion-tunnel collapse last April), this decision depends on relative rainfall over the next months. Higher rainfall around the Cauca River basin means greater Cauca River flow, while lower relative rainfall cuts river flow, he explained.

EPM aims to reduce the time it takes between shuttering the machine-room tunnel -- with a consequent rise of water-level behind the dam – and the subsequent, eventual flow of water over the engineered spillway at the top of the dam. Cutting this time-gap to a minimum number of days will mean less impact on downstream populations that depend upon some constant minimal water flow of the river, he added.


Medellin-based, national corporate-and-individual risk-management, due-diligence and real-estate investigator Konfirma announced August 29 that its first-half (1H) 2018 revenues grew 45% year-on-year -- and the company expects full-year 2018 revenues to rise about 40% year-on-year.

In an August 29 interview with Medellin Herald, Konfirma general manager Sergio Jaramillo Mejia added that upcoming anti-corruption legislation -- backed by newly elected Colombia President Ivan Duque as well as Colombia’s main political parties – could very well provide a further boost to revenues in future years.

Konfirma has been involved in numerous Colombian “fourth generation” (4G) highway construction projects as a real-estate-value investigator-and-negotiator, including three such projects in Antioquia: “Pacifico 2,” “Mar 2” and “Conexion Norte,” Jaramillo revealed to us.

Beyond highway-corridor, public-transit and transmission-network real-estate services, Konfirma also offers reputational, financial and legal-history investigative services for both individuals as well as companies considering real-estate acquisitions, corporate acquisitions, business launches, employee hires or business partnerships. Investigative services also can probe a candidate company (or an individual) on relevant experience, quality, security and workplace safety.

For foreign investors, Konfirma also has bilingual staff available, Jaramillo told us.

Such specialized services are especially important in Colombia where anyone (qualified or not) can be a real-estate agent, where mortgage insurance isn’t yet available, where Colombian property-ownership laws and enforcement still lack clarity, where fiduciary obligations are weak, where certain properties earlier might have been seized illegally by criminal or guerrilla groups, or where government-dictated land restitutions to prior owners might be underway.

Hence investors can run huge risks by investing in properties, businesses or persons that may have criminal, illegal or irresponsible histories, Jaramillo explained.

One current example is the “Meritage” commercial real-estate development scandal near Medellin, where both Colombian and foreign investors have lost millions of dollars following the seizure of the Meritage property by Colombia’s Attorney General.

That seizure was the result of the property’s alleged ties to mafiosos (see Medellin Herald on February 02, 2018, “Colombia Supreme Court Ruling: Fiduciaries Hardly Protect Real-Estate Investors.”)  Now those investors are suing the Attorney General in an international tribunal, aiming to recoup their lost investments.

While it’s unclear what Corficolombiana (the fiduciary for the Meritage project) did or didn’t do to discover criminal-history issues -- and thus help avoid investor problems with the Meritage project -- it’s conceivable that the sort of “deep” investigations in which Konfirma specializes could have discovered problems in time to avoid investor losses, Jaramillo explained to us.

Unfortunately, Konfirma – Colombia’s largest-such investigative services company, owned equally by the Medellin Chamber of Commerce and by local “e-commerce” specialist Cadena -- wasn’t hired to investigate the Meritage project.

While Konfirma can’t offer guarantees that its “deep” investigations always would discover and hence avoid disasters like Meritage, its investigative techniques and studies nevertheless could give investors greater peace-of-mind than just the routine “certificate of tradition and freedom of the property” (“certificado de tradición y libertad del inmueble”) studies performed by realtors or fiduciaries, Jaramillo added.

Konfirma’s services also include due-diligence on companies seeking to bid on government-supervised or regulated projects, such as the “4G” highways and electric-power transmission corridors. Such services include investigations into experience and qualifications, as well as possible money-laundering, bribery, terrorism links or other legal problems that might involve candidate companies, individuals, potential employees, suppliers and counter-parties, he explained.

While Konfirma may be best-known for its government- and corporate-client services -- with some 112 such clients so far in 2018 -- the company also offers investigative services for even the smallest investors, such as those considering buying an apartment or house, he added.

One such corporate client – Colombian fiduciary Fiduprevisora – recently tapped Konfirma to investigate health-insurance plan options for a national teacher’s organization. That investigation analyzed more than 205,000 documents and helped the organization guide its decisions, according to the company.

For various clients, in 2017 alone, Konfirma analyzed 460,000 data sources -- and discovered that nearly 25,000 (4.8%) of individuals or counter-parties investigated presented reputational or legal risk, he revealed. Unfortunately, in Colombia, “there’s a relatively high level of illegal activity,” which puts investors at greater reputational and business risk, he said.

What’s more, corruption is now estimated to be robbing Colombia of an estimated 8% of gross domestic product (“PIB” in Spanish initials) – money that could better be directed for all sorts of social improvements including education, health and infrastructure, he added.

Since its launch eight years ago in Medellin, Konfirma has since expanded its operations to some 40 major and smaller cities in Colombia (including Bogota) and is now planning expansions to nearby South and Central American markets, initially in conjunction with expansion plans by Colombian-based companies, he said.

Among its numerous major corporate clients here are EPM, Isagen, ISA, Metro de Medellin, Sura, Proteccion, Bancolombia, AngloGold Ashanti, Antioquia Gold, Coninsa Ramon H, Exito, Argos, Goodyear, Grupo de Energia de Bogota, PIO, Comfama, Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura and ANDI (Colombia’s national industrial trade association), according to Konfirma.


Colombia’s Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MinCIT) announced August 28 that Antioquian milk-products producers Colanta and Proleche are among 11 companies that just won certifications and approvals to export certain dairy-based products to Mexico.
 
MinCIT, ProColombia and Invima collectively worked to open Mexico’s doors to Colombian milk products from 13 newly licensed processing plants in nine Colombian departments, according to the Ministry.
 
“The products that can be sold [to Mexico] vary depending on the establishment,” according to MinCIT.
 
On the newly approved list are mozzarella cheese, white cheese, whole and skimmed milk powder, whey powder, buffalo whey, whole and buffalo flavored yogurt, buffalo arequipe, industrial milk powder, canned condensed milk, canned cream, arequipe, dulce de leche, chocolate milk, strawberry and vanilla flavored milk, whole milk-based drink with oatmeal, and almond-flavored milk.
 
“This is excellent news for the dairymen of Colombia and, in addition, it is a sign of the great benefits that will bring for the national producers from a foreign trade policy focused upon taking advantage of the commercial agreements that we have in force,” added MinCIT Minister José Manuel Restrepo Abondano.
 
Prior to the Mexico deal, Colombian regulatory authorities had identified and then controlled an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in some ranching areas of the country. That control work eventually convinced Mexican authorities that Colombia is a reliable trade partner, ensuring sanitary practices.
 
“The work of health diplomacy is key, which in this case was anticipated -- and that should be the norm for us to continue opening the doors of the markets to our products,” Minister Restrepo added.
 
According to Invima, certified Colombian dairy plants now have access to 18 export markets including Bangladesh, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, the United States, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Morocco, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and the Eurasian Economic Union (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia).

Colombia’s Controller-General on August 25 unveiled a 442-page report finding that recent problems with the US$5 billion, 2.4-gigawatt “Hidroituango” hydroelectric project in Antioquia are the result of insufficient technical studies, planning and regulatory controls.

The Controller’s report is especially critical of Colombia’s environmental licensing agency (Agencia Nacional de Licencias Ambientales, ANLA) for issuing permits supposedly without sufficiently rigorous technical, environmental, animal and population-risk studies.

However, ANLA immediately issued a public response claiming that the Controller’s report contains “inexact” conclusions that “don’t correspond to reality.”

In part, the response points-out that ANLA wasn’t the entity that initially approved licenses for the project, but rather the Environment Ministry.

What’s more, it’s odd that the Controller didn’t raise objections to the various initial licenses and ANLA license-revisions issued in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, but only after the diversion-tunnel collapse in late April 2018, ANLA points out.

In addition, ANLA emphasized that it didn’t hide anything from the Controller in ANLA’s subsequent license-revision approvals, the reponse contends.

In any case, Hidroituango project manager EPM recently hired an independent auditor that will investigate the real causes of the diversion-tunnel collapse. That auditor’s report is due by year-end 2018, ANLA added.

What’s more, EPM has undertaken every subsequent ANLA-mandated measure to remediate, fix and shore-up the project since the tunnel-collapse incident, as well as take extraordinary measures to protect and compensate affected downstream populations and wildlife, the agency adds.

Controller Report Highlights

“There are many weaknesses and errors discovered by the Controller in the different stages of the licensing process, such as the approval of the license by the then-Ministry of Environment, without sufficient studies and designs, detailed and updated, which allowed the location of the megaproject in an area with high geological risk,” according to the Controller’s report.

According to the Controller’s report, the Hidroituango project “is located in an area crossed by more than 11 recognized geological faults,” while some 26,000 people living in the area of the hydroelectric dam potentially could suffer disastrous consequences from any dam failure.

An “alternative environmental study” potentially could have led EPM to reconsider whether the chosen Hidroituango site “was the best option from the environmental and social point of view,” according to the report.

“Due to the absence of certain studies and real designs, 12 modifications to the environmental license had to be generated throughout the execution of the project, which also did not have sufficient and detailed studies and designs, and ANLA -- without sufficient bases in some cases -- has granted them,” according to the report.

“In the development of the civil works of the project, there were decisions by the licensee and the environmental authority which were not supported in a technical manner, which generated flaws in the project, such as the final closure of the two main [Cauce River water] diversion tunnels, without having built the floodgates included in the design; and in their replacement the construction of a single [evacuation] tunnel with half the capacity of the two closed tunnels, also located on geological faults,” according to the Controller's report.

What’s more, since EPM’s recently contracted study investigating the cause of the tunnel collapse still hasn’t been completed, it remains possible that some future collapse could occur in the rock massif adjacent to the dam, with potentially catastrophic consequences, according to the Controller.

“The risk can be increased by the arrival of the rainy season in October, when [rainfall] reaches the maximum peak,” according to the report.

“Given the technical uncertainty surrounding the project in terms of its future, the most certain and real thing is that due to its location, the features of the Cauca River, the deficiencies in studies and designs, the [uncertain] civil works developed, the inhabitants that have been affected and the damages caused to natural resources (flora and fauna), the horizon of the project can be considered as uncertain and the systemic risk is permanent,” according to the Controller.

“Due to the [tunnel-collapse] contingency that occurred in April and May of 2018, the current post-emergency conditions and the internal stability of the massif are not the same as those with which the environmental license was [initially] granted.

“As the excavations of the [construction] work and the actions generated by the loss of hydraulic control of the dam possibly weakened the massif, generating structural changes, [these factors] must be evaluated to continue the project.

“Especially the [water volume behind the dam, adjacent to the rock massif] drastically affects the seismicity, induced by the increase of the load due to the weight of the water, the increase of pore pressure in the geological faults and the lubrication of the contact surfaces," according to the report.

The uncertain integrity and stability of the right bank massif, where all the main works of the hydroelectric] plant are located, plus the impact of the temporary diversion of Cauca River water through mechanical room, both raise the possibility that “this massif should never have been saturated and under pressure,” the report concludes.

EPM Statement

On August 27, EPM released the following statement in reaction to the Controller’s report:

“In relation to the findings of the audit report on the compliance of the environmental authorities in the licensing process for the Ituango hydroelectric project, prepared by the Controller-General of the Republic, EPM informs the following:

"1. From the beginning of the [Hidroituango tunnel-collapse] contingency, EPM has expressed its interest in clarifying all doubts that may be held about the work. Therefore, as is our duty and will, we have provided the authorities and the control agencies with the information required to carry out the revisions on the management and execution of the project.

"2. The construction and development process of the Hidroituango hydroelectric project has always been accompanied by the competent [regulatory] authorities.

"3. Several aspects related to the findings announced by the Controller-General’s Office have been in the process of investigation for several weeks by the Corporate Audit and Disciplinary Control [office] of EPM.  EPM respects due process, for which reason it refrains from elaborating upon the facts of the investigations that are in progress. Once the results of the inquiry are known, our conclusions will be divulged in a timely manner."


Wall Street bond rater Fitch announced September 12 that it has decided to maintain its "AAA (col)" investment-grade rating for Medellin-based multinational electric power giant EPM -- but issued a cautionary “negative” outlook.
 
The Fitch decision follows in the wake of fellow Wall Street bond rater Moody's, which last month likewise maintained an investment-grade rating on EPM -- but issued a similar cautionary outlook because of an EPM-estimated COP$7 trillion (US$2.27 billion) financial shortfall resulting from infrastructure damage and power-sales delays from the 2.4-gigawatt "Hidroituango" hydroelectric plant in Antioquia.
 
Commenting on the action, EPM general manager Jorge Londoño de la Cuesta added that “the rating of Fitch Ratings is in addition to that recently obtained by Moody's Investors Service that ratified the international rating of EPM at 'Baa3,' an investment-grade level, and assigned a 'negative' outlook, as a demonstration of our company's efforts to overcome the contingency in the Hidroituango hydroelectric project and continue to advance in our mission to contribute to the well-being of millions of people in the regions where we have a presence."
 
The Moody’s rating reflects EPM’s “revenue diversification geographically and, of among businesses, a significant contribution to EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization] by our energy distribution businesses, the condition of relative control of the contingency of the Hidroituango hydroelectric project and the asset-sale plan announced by the company,” according to EPM.
 
“Moody’s rating also incorporates EPM’s rapid response to the required adjustments in terms of its commercial policy, ensuring the supply of natural gas to dispatch [electric power from] its La Sierra combined-cycle natural gas thermal power station, with an installed capacity of 450-megawatts, as well as the purchase of energy through medium-term contracts to meet the energy obligations contracted for 2020 and 2021.
 
“With this rating granted by Moody’s, EPM maintains -- along with the current BBB (-) rating of Fitch Ratings -- a double investment grade, a category considered in the financial market that provides an adequate credit quality and certainty of repayment to the most demanding investors in risk profiles,” EPM added.

Medellin-based multinational electric-power grid operator ISA reported August 13 that its second quarter (2Q) 2018 net income dropped 16% year-on-year, to COP$232 billion (US$77.6 million).
 
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) for 2Q 2018 likewise dropped 3.8% year-on-year, to COP$945 billion (US$316 million), according to the company.
 
As for first-half (1H) 2018 results, net income is up 2.3% year-on-year, to COP$530 billion (US$177 million), while 1H 2018 EBITDA rose 4% year-on-year, to COP$2 trillion (US$669 million).
 
“In the second quarter of 2018, there were no extraordinary events. However, for comparative purposes, it should be taken into account that in second quarter 2017, the [upward] adjustment of the value of the RBSE [power transmission network] in Brazil was included,” according to ISA.
 
“This factor generated net operating income of COP$359 billion [US$120 million], a deferred income tax of COP$122 billion [US$41 million] and net income of COP$85 billion [US$28 million). Because this was a non-recurring event, we will exclude it in the [current] analysis.”
 
The 1H 2018 profit results “include the recovery of taxes in Colombia and Brazil, the entry into operation of new energy transmission and roads projects in Peru, Colombia and Chile and the incorporation of the results of [recently added transmission networks] TAESA and IENNE,” according to ISA.
 
As for 2018 plans, ISA plans to invest COP$3.5 trillion (US$1.17 billion), “one of the highest in recent years,” with 92% of that in its electric energy transmission businesses, followed by 4.5% in its highway concessions and the remainder in information technology, telecom and systems management, according to the company.

August is the month when both Medellin and Detroit celebrate classic cars -- and the joyful return of positive vibes -- via the “Desfile de Autos Clasicos” here and the gigantic “Woodward Dream Cruise” in Detroit.


While sales and export revenues are starting to improve for Medellin’s textile manufacturing giants, net profits are still hard to come by, as evidenced by the latest second quarter (2Q) 2018 results from Enka Colombia and Coltejer.

In a financial report issued August 6, Enka revealed that gross income rose to COP$196 billion (US$67 million) in 2Q 2018, up from COP$169 billion (US$58 million) in 2Q 2017.

“Sales grew 16% in pesos and 8% in volume, with good performance in all businesses” and “the increase in sales compensates the impact of the revaluation of the peso [against the U.S. dollar],” the company added.

However, rising administrative, tax and sales costs resulted in a dip in 2Q 2018 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), to COP$10.6 billion (US$3.6 million), versus COP$12 billion (US$4.1 million) in 2Q 2017, according to Enka.

As a result, Enka posted a relatively slim COP$999 million (US$345,000) net loss for 2Q 2018, versus a net profit of COP$1.9 billion (US$655,000) in 2Q 2017.

Recycling plant start-up

Meanwhile, Enka started-up its new, 3,300 tons/year polyolefin recycling plant during July, “thus venturing into the recycling of polyethylene and polypropylene” for synthetic fabrics.

The plant “will transform the byproducts of the PET recycling process (plastic caps and labels) into sustainable products with high quality standards for the plastic sector. In addition, it will serve as a pilot plant for the search for sustainable solutions for other types of plastics and as a gateway to future growth and innovation,” according to Enka.

As for its first half (1H) 2018 results, “operating income as of June 2018 reached COP$196 billion [US$67 million], an increase of 16% compared to the same period of the previous year, mainly due to the growth in sales volume and the higher international prices of the petrochemical chain, which offset the revaluation,” according to Enka.

Recycled plastics markets rebound

As for sales to the Colombian domestic market, revenues grew 17% year-on-year and volume rose 5%, “favored by the good results of the measures implemented by the [Colombian] government to avoid under-invoicing [by contraband importers] at the beginning of the year,” according to Enka.

Similarly, “the continuous development of markets for high-value-added [products] and the deepening of the free-trade agreements with strategic partners have allowed us to increase exports by 16% in revenues and 13% in volume, reaching an [export] share over total sales of 48% ,” according to Enka.

“We highlight the sales growth of the U.S. and Canadian markets, thanks to new approvals [for import into North America] of special technical threads, as well as in Brazil and Argentina, where new business opportunities continue to be identified,” according to Enka.

For its recycled plastic fibers, 1H 2018 sales rose 24% year-on-year, to COP$62 billion (US$21 million.

“EKO-Pet” sales grew 22% in pesos and 3% in volume year-on-year, with the plant “operating at maximum capacity. Sales are destined 100% to the local market, supporting the sustainability strategies of the main producers of [plastic-bottled] beverages in Colombia,” according to Enka.

As for its “EKO-Fibras” synthetic fibers, “lower Asian offer [from China to nations where Enka competes with Asian producers] due to greater environmental restrictions in China and the import price thresholds implemented by the [Colombian] government have allowed sales to grow 27% in pesos and 15% in volume, especially in the Brazilian market,” according to Enka.

Textile, industrial businesses grow

Operating income from textile/industrial products grew 13% year-on-year, to COP$134 billion [US$46 million], according to Enka

Industrial thread sales grew 9% in revenues and 4% in volume, “driven by higher sales of technical threads to the U.S. and Canada, markets that the company has defined as strategic due to its high specialization,” according to Enka.

As for the filaments-textiles business, “the implementation of the measure of minimum price thresholds for textile imports [into Colombia’ has given greater transparency to the Colombian market, favoring local sales. In addition, new businesses with Argentina are being developed, taking advantage of the greater economic activity and the free trade agreements with Mercosur. As a result, sales grew 17% in revenue and 14% in volume,” according to Enka.

Coltejer exports soar

As for Coltejer, this textile giant saw 1H 2018 gross revenues rise to COP$75.5 billion (US$26 million) compared to COP$72.5 billion (US$25 million) in 1H 2017, thanks to a 124% jump in exports year-on-year.

Cost of sales also declined, to COP$70.5 billion (US$24 million) in 1H 2018 versus COP$73 billion (US$25 million) in 1h 2017. However, finance costs in 1H 2018 rose to COP$21 billion (US$7.2 million) versus COP$14 billion (US$4.8 million) in 1H 2017.

As a result, Coltejer posted a net loss of COP$13.7 billion (US$4.7 million) for 1H 2018 versus a net loss of COP$21 billion (US$7.2 million) in 1H 2017.

For 2Q 2018, gross revenues improved to COP$39 billion (US$13.4 million) versus COP$31 billion (US$10.7 million) in 2Q 2017. Finance costs also rose in 2Q 2018, to COP$10.7 billion (US$3.7 million), versus COP$6.8 billion (US$2.3 million) in 2Q 2017.

As a result, Coltejer posted an after-tax net loss of COP$12.5 billion (US$4.3 million) in 2Q 2018 versus an after-tax net loss of COP$10.8 billion (US$3.7 million) in 2Q 2017.


Medellin-based utilities giant EPM announced July 3 that it signed a biodiversity project alliance deal with University of Antioquia (U-A) to study and protect birds and other wildlife affected by EPM’s hydroelectric dams – including the under-construction “Hidroituango” dam in Antioquia.

According to EPM, the agreement with U-A “adds scientific, technical and administrative efforts for the integral management of biodiversity, through research and conservation actions in the areas of interest of power generation in Antioquia.

“With this alliance, initially planned to continue until 2020, five programs of integrated management of biodiversity in the zones of influence of different reservoirs in Antioquia are developed. The five research and training programs include terrestrial flora and fauna; ictiofauna, habitat and ecosystems; cyanobacteria monitoring and management of melanoides tuberculata; public health surveillance; and environmental education."

According to EPM, the new alliance with U-A is a continuation of earlier joint research projects with EPM, “based on the information needs related to monitoring the environmental impacts of the Porce II and Porce III hydroelectric projects and the efficiency of the management measures implemented.”

One just-completed project investigated the impact of the Hidroituango dam (and habitats flooded by the lake behind it) on various locally endangered or threatened birds, including Military Macaw (Ara militaris), Channel-Billed Toucan (Ramphastos citreolaemus) and Antioquia Wren (Thryophilus sernai), according to EPM.

Commenting on the U-A deal, EPM general manager Jorge Londoño de la Cuesta added: “In recent years we have witnessed a positive evolution of social and environmental performance standards for our energy generation operations, leveraged by an increase in the level of technical requirements of environmental regulatory authorities at the national and regional levels.

“Now we highlight a management scheme with the University of Antioquia, as it means that compliance with environmental obligations associated with our operations is being evaluated and followed by an entity with academic and scientific rigor.”


Medellin-based international banking giant Bancolombia reported August 2 that its second quarter (2Q) 2018 consolidated net income dropped 9.5% year-on-year, to COP$592 billion (US$204 million), from COP$653 billion (US$225 million) in 2Q 2017.

Despite the year-on-year decline, the 2Q 2018 profits were 13% better than first-quarter (1Q) 2018 profits, according to the company.

As of June 30, 2018, Bancolombia’s assets totaled COP$204 trillion (US$70 billion), up 1.8% compared to 1Q 2018 and up 0.4% compared to 2Q 2017, according to the company. Bancolombia’s liabilities totaled COP$180 trillion (US$62 billion), up 1.6% compared to 1Q 2018 but down 0.1% compared to 2Q 2017.

During the latest quarter, the Colombian peso depreciated 5.4% against the U.S. dollar, whereas in the prior 12 months, the peso appreciated 3.9% against the dollar.

“In 2Q 2018 there was a growth in the gross portfolio of 2.9% compared to 1Q 2018,” while “compared to 2Q 2017, the annual growth of the peso portfolio was 8.7% while the dollar portfolio decreased 2.4%,” according to Bancolombia.

“At the end of 2Q 2018, operations at [subsidiaries] Banco Agrícola in El Salvador, Banistmo in Panama and BAM in Guatemala represented 25% of the total portfolio balance,” according to the company.

“At the same time, the portfolio denominated in currencies other than the Colombian peso -- generated by operations in Central America, the off-shore operation Bancolombia Panama and the U.S. dollar portfolio in Colombia -- represented 33.4% of the total portfolio and had an increase of 7.4% for the quarter (expressed in pesos), mainly explained by the depreciation of the peso versus the dollar,” the company added.

Total reserves (provisions in the balance sheet) for delinquent loans increased 5.4% during the quarter, “equivalent to 5.8% of the gross portfolio at the end of the quarter,” according to Bancolombia.

At the end of 2Q 2018, Bancolombia’s investment portfolio declined 6.7% compared to 1Q 2018, but rose 2.2% compared to 2Q 2017. “The investment portfolio consists mainly of debt securities, which represented 70.5% of total Bancolombia investments and 5.4% of assets at the end of 2Q 2018,” according to the company.

At the end of 2Q18, the portfolio of investments in debt securities had a duration of 19.6 months and a yield to maturity of 4.7%.

The consolidated loan portfolio in 2Q 2018 grew 3.2% compared to 2Q 2017 “The annual growth reflects a moderate demand for credit in Colombia,” according to Bancolombia.

Net interest income fell 3.3% compared to 2Q 2017, according to the company.

“This decrease is mainly explained by the impact of the adoption of IFRS-9 [accounting standards] in 2018, which reduced revenue by COP$106 billion [US$36 million] compared to 2Q 2017, as well as margin compression during the year,” according to Bancolombia

Net annualized interest margin in the latest quarter was 5.9%. “The margin increased six basis points in the quarter, and decreased 31 basis points compared to 2Q 2017, impacted by the fall in net interest income due to the adoption of IFRS 9, as well as the reductions in the reference rate of the central bank in Colombia,” according to Bancolombia.

Provision charges against loans were COP$972 billion (US$335 million) and the 90-day past due loan coverage indicator was 157.3%. “Provision charges increased 23.1% compared to 2Q 2017 and 11.1% compared to 1Q 2018,” according to Bancolombia. “This level of provisions allows maintaining a solid coverage index in the middle of a challenging environment.”

The past due portfolio is “explained mostly by corporate clients,” according to the company.

“Net fees were COP$645 billion [US$22 million] and grew 4.8% compared to 2Q 2017. Debit and credit cards, payments and collections and fiduciary activities are the [venues] that contribute the most to this positive annual performance,” the company added.

Income taxes dipped to COP$195 billion (US$67 million) in 2Q 2018, down 37.3% from 1Q 2018, and down 30.6% compared to 2Q 2017.

“These variations are mainly explained by the depreciation of the peso versus the dollar in the second quarters of 2017 and 2018, since the operation in Colombia, which has the highest tax rate, represents a lower proportion in the consolidated results,” according to Bancolombia.

As of June 30, 2018, the Bancolombia Group had 31,000 employees, 1,045 branches, 5,746 ATMs, 11,269 correspondent-bank locations and more than 12 million customers.


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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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