Sunday, November 19, 2017

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Roberto Peckham

Medellin-based Enka de Colombia – producer of fibers and filaments including nylon and polyester - this month reported that its first-half (1H) 2017 net profits fell to COP$1.9 billion (US$641,000), down sharply from COP$9.3 billion (US$3 million ) in 1H 2016.

Sales also dropped year-on-year, to COP$84.8 billion (US$28.6 million) in 1H 2017, versus COP$92.5 billion (US$31 million) in 1H 2016.

The Enka plant, in the Medellin suburb of Girardota, also recycles PET plastic for tire manufacturers, plastics producers and textile producers.

Coltejer Losses Nearly Double

Meanwhile, Medellin-based textile manufacturer Coltejer this month reported that its 1H 2017 losses rose to COP$21.6 billion (US$7.3 million), compared to a COP$11.6 billion (US$3.9 million) loss in 1H 2017.

Sales also dropped sharply, to COP$72.8 billion (US$24.6 million), versus COP$122.8 billion (US$41 million) in 1H 2016.

Mexico-based Grupo Kaltex is the majority (82%) share owner of Coltejer.

Colombian textile producers have been complaining of a loss of sales this year due to continuing contraband clothing imports, a slowdown in the Colombian economy and a hike in value-added tax, which penalizes retail sales.


Medellin-based multinational personal hygiene products manufacturer Familia SA announced this month that its second quarter (2Q) 2017 net profits soared to COP$51 billion (US$17 million), up from a COP$51 billion (US$17 million) net loss in 2Q 2016.

Sales also rose in 2Q 2017, to COP$583 billion (US$196 million), versus COP$570 billion (US$191 million) in 2Q 2016, according to the company, which manufactures toilet paper, napkins, diapers, feminine hygiene products and other paper-based products for sale in 20 Latin American countries.

Grupo Familia was founded in 1958, initially as an importer of Scott toilet paper. But it now has four Colombian manufacturing plants -- in Medellin, Rionegro, Cajica, Cauca – a fifh plant in Aconcagua, Argentina, and a sixth plant in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Former employees involved in an alleged toilet-paper price-fixing scheme with other companies several years ago have since been fired. Familia also paid a COP$62 billion (US$20.8 million) fine last year to settle those charges.

 


Medellin-based paints, chemicals, hardware supplies and pipe manufacturer Grupo Orbis this month posted a second-quarter 2017 net loss of COP$1.5 billion (US$504,000), an improvement over the COP$11 billion (US$3.7 million) net loss in 2Q 2017.

Sales improved slightly in 2Q 2017 to COP$369 billion (US$124 million), versus COP$366.9 billion (US$123 million) in 2Q 2016, according to the company, which produces the popular “Pintuco” brand of paints at its Rionegro, Antioquia manufacturing complex.

While first-quarter 2017 results inside Colombia were in-line with budget forecasts, the second quarter 2017 showed a decline in consumer demand, according to the company.

On the positive side, Orbis sales in Central American markets and in Argentina exceeded expectations. But Brazil sales results were hurt by continuing macroeconomic headwinds, according to Orbis.

Corporate financing costs for first-half (1H) 2017 grew to COP$36 billion (US$12 million), versus COP$27 billion (US$9 million) in 1H 2016.

While Grupo Orbis describes itself a significant finished-products exporter, the company “has a significant exposure to imported raw materials that may have potential impacts on costs due to adjustments in the exchange rate,” according to the company.


Medellin-based gold mining giant Mineros SA announced August 17 that its first-half (1H) 2017 net profits dipped 2.9% year-on-year, to COP$74 billion (US$24.7 million), while operating income dipped 4%, to COP$199 billion (US$66.6 million).

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) fell 12.2% year-on-year, to COP$100 billion (US$33 million), while operating costs rose 1.6%, to COP$106 billion (US$35 million).

Consolidated revenues rose 14.4% year-on-year, to COP$402 billion (US$134 million), but Colombia revenues fell 4% year-on-year as gold prices (in Colombian pesos) fell 7.24%, according to the company.

Revenues in its Nicaragua operations rose 40% year-on-year thanks to production increases, while EBITDA margin in Nicaragua hit 26%, versus 50% in Colombia.

The company foresees future annual gold production in Nicaragua hitting 120,000 ounces “over the médium term” and predicts economical synergies between its Colombian and Nicaraguan operations.

Most of the Colombian gold production by Mineros is alluvial (river barge dredging) whereas most of the Nicaraguan production is via underground mines. Colombian production dipped slightly to 54,983 ounces in 1H 2017, versus 56,409 ounces in 1H 2016, while Nicaraguan production rose 36.6% year-on-year, to 53,725 ounces, according to the company.


Until recently, twenty-nine-year-old U.S. expat Steve Marcinuk – who has worked in 30 countries and scores of cities – could be tagged as a “digital nomad” who’s only temporarily in Medellin.

But that’s changing as Marcinuk – having just completed his first full year in Medellin -- instead is putting down roots, making plans and becoming proficient in Spanish.

It’s a story that’s starting to repeat among a growing cadre of Medellin “former digital nomads,” thanks to greater experience, maturity, business growth, deepening social friendships, bilingual skill development and a romantic attraction that makes people fall in love with Medellin generally and (in certain cases) with a special person particularly.


Two of Antioquia's leading producers of Hass avocados on August 15 hailed a new decision by the U.S. government to allow imports of Colombian avocados into the U.S. market starting September 15.

“Unlike Peru and Chile, Colombia enjoys permanent production of Hass avocados during 12 months of the year,” said Ricardo Uribe Lalinde, general manager of Medellin-based Cartama, a group of leading Colombian companies producing avocados and cut flowers for major export markets.

“At a time when the North American market demand for Hass avocados remains unsatisfied, here in our country we can supply it,” he added.

Having first launched Hass avocado production in Amaga, Antioquia in 2007, Cartama later expanded production into Caldas and Risaralda, and then opened a packing and shipping plant in Pereira for the export market in 2016.

Also during 2016, British supermarket chain Marks and Spencer awarded Cartama with its “Growers Best Quality” certification for Colombian Hass avocados.

The new U.S. approval would at least double Colombian exports of Hass avocados, which already topped US$25 million through the first half of 2017, according to Colombia’s Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism.

Meanwhile, Pedro Aguilar, president of Westsole Fruit Colombia -- which has major warehouse, packing and shipping facilities on the Medellin-Bogota highway in Antioquia -- added that Colombian avocado producer insistence upon meeting strict sanitary standards has been crucial to winning more export markets.

Of the US$35 million in avocado exports from Colombia in 2016,  52.7% of the total came from Antioquia; 22.7% from Risaralda; 7.4% from Bogotá;  5.8% from Caldas; 4.6% from Quindío; 4.5% from Cundinamarca and the remaining 1.8% from Valle del Cauca, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Meanwhile, according to an August 15 press release from Expo Agrofuturo – which is hosting its ninth annual trade show at Medellin’s Plaza Mayor convention center September 13-15 – Colombia is already the third-largest global avocado producer, and the new U.S. market opening is expected to prompt "rapid growth over the medium term."

Avocado production and export will be among the featured topics at Expo Agrofuturo 2017. The trade show will include 420 national and international exhibitors, some 20,000 registered attendees and an expectation of business deals topping US$300 million, according to Expo Agrofuturo.

Agricultural experts from Spain, Germany, Holland and Colombia will be among the featured speakers at Expo Agrofuturo 2017, including Nicolas Cock, co-founder and president of Medellin-based Ecoflora Agro.


Medellin-based construction giant Construcciones El Condor announced August 11 that its second-quarter (2Q) 2017 net income rose nine-fold year-on-year, to COP$159 billion (US$53.6 million), while revenues jumped 55%, to COP$455 billion (US$153 million).

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose five-fold, to COP$226 billion (US$76 million), according to the company, which focuses mainly upon highway construction.

Operating revenues for first-half 2017 were COP$275 billion (US$92.7 million), up 62% over the same period last year “mainly due to considerable construction revenues in [Colombian highway] projects which are in the construction stage as is the case with Pacifico 2, Pacifico 3, Transversal de las Americas and Ruta al Mar among others,” according to the company.

“The company expects to continue achieving its revenue budgets, which could generate an additional increase for the second semester of 2017,” the company added.

The big jump in net income “is explained principally by the income from sale of investments (non-recurring event) and the increase in profit from construction services provided, which the company expects to maintain during the second semester. Net margin was 57.6%,” according to the company.

“The infrastructure sector continues to be a key economic driver and this quarter´s figures reflect projects that are maturing and increasing their rate of execution. The projects that supported the construction revenues in the second quarter of 2017 were Transversal de las Americas, Caucheras, Pacifico 3, Pacifico 2 and Cesar Guajira,” the company added.

As of June 2017, the company administers an investment portfolio with infrastructure projects that have a book value of approximately COP$668 billion (US$225 million).

Debt ratio was 26% (calculated over total assets) and net equity as of June 31, 2017, was COP$905 billion (US$305 million), up 16.9% year-on-year.

Meanwhile, order backlog -- the balance of works hired and works to be implemented -- was COP$2.782 trillion (US$938 million), the company added.


Medellin-based multinational insurance, pensions and investment giant Grupo Sura announced August 15 that its first-half (1H) 2017 net income dipped 34.6% year-on-year mainly because of Colombian peso devaluation against the U.S. dollar.

However, revenues rose 22.4% year-on-year to COP$9.9 trillion (US$3.3 billion), while investment income jumped 61.5%, to COP$1.1 trillion (US$372 million), according to the company.

“These results reflect the dynamic operation of our affiliates Sura Asset Management – specialized in pensions, savings and investments – and Suramericana, in the sector of insurance and risk-management,” according to Sura.

Its affiliation with associates Bancolombia and pension specialist Proteccion delivered US$169 million in revenues, according to the company.

Expenses rose 29.7% year-on-year, to US$3 billion, mainly due to the acquisition of insuror RSA.

Leaving aside the impact of peso devaluation and certain non-recurring charge provisions, net income would have grown 11.4% year-on-year, according to the company.

Assets grew 4.9% year-on-year, to COP$71.2 trillion (US$23.3 billion), while shareholder equity grew 0.9% year-on-year, to US$7.5 billion, according to the company.

The Suramericana insurance subsidiary saw premium income rise 47.2%, to US$1.8 billion, sparked by the acquisition of RSA last year.

Meanwhile, the Sura Asset Management subsidiary saw its assets under management grow 14.4%, to US$126 billion.

Operating income from its pension administration group rose 11.7%, to US$383 million, with the voluntary pension segment growing 28% year-on-year, according to the company.


Medellin-based multinational supermarket giant Exito reported August 14 that its first-half (1H) 2017 net profits rebounded to COP$61.6 billion (US$20.7 million), up from a COP$47.7 billion (US$16 million) loss in 1H 2016.

Revenues also rose 12.4% year-on-year, to COP$26.8 trillion (US$9 billion), while recurring earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 40% year-on-year, to COP$1.7 trillion (US$573 million), according to the company.

While Colombia’s relatively weak economy this year pinched over-all results, a rebounding Brazilian economy boosted Exito’s corporate-wide earnings, according to the company.

In Brazil, Exito’s “Grupo Pão de Açúcar” (GPA) chain saw revenues rise 8.1% year-on-year (measured in local currency) and the “Assai” cash-and-carry supermarket chain saw a 28% jump in operational earnings.

In Uruguay, sales rose 7.4% year-on-year (measured in local currency) and EBITDA margin hit 8%, according to the company.

In Argentina, the company’s commercial real-estate business expanded to 161,000 square meters of rentable space, putting Exito in the number-one position (outside of Buenos Aires) in offering commercial gallery space.

In Colombia, Éxito’s “Surtimayorista” cash-and-carry chain continues to grow, with eight stores now open and showing promising results.

Surtimayorista is “one of the strategies of the [Éxito] group to confront the challenging macroeconomic situation” in Colombia, according to the company.

The private-label clothing business also is showing exemplary results, as 97% of all Éxito-branded clothing ítems are produced in Colombia, generating US$6 million in export income, according to the company.

Synergies between all of Éxito’s business lines in Latin America are now expected to deliver US$50 million in corporate-wide savings this year, the company added.

The company now has 1,563 retail locations, with 568 in Colombia, 884 in Brasil, 81 in Uruguay and 30 in Argentina.

“The first-half results continue to show us that our internationalization strategy is producing good results and positive diversification in income and profits for our group,” added Grupo Éxito president Carlos Mario Giraldo.


A new study by Colombia’s health ministry (Ministerio de Salud) found that Suramericana EPS, Sanitas EPS and Aliansalud EPS were rated the top-three health insurance network providers by patients in the “contributory” (user-pays, employer-pays) “Entidades Prestadoras de Salud” (EPS) health-coverage sector.

However, the study didn’t cover health-care consumers in the prepaid sector – an attractive insurance alternative for many wealthier expats (and richer Colombians).

Several companies including Suramericana and Coomeva offer prepaid health insurance coverage in Colombia. However, these policies are much more expensive than EPS policies -- and they’re beyond the budget of most Colombians.

In addition, only Coomeva offers prepaid health insurance to people 60 years and older, which puts most older expats (and native Colombians) either at the mercy of relatively slow EPS coverage for certain expensive and optional procedures, and for certain drugs -- or else paying cash/credit for faster, broader services and broader drug options.

Still, people in the prepaid insurance system also must buy a complimentary EPS policy -- which effectively helps subsidize the cost of coverage for millions of others stuck in EPS networks.

As for the “subsidized” EPS sector (mainly for indigents), the top three EPS networks in the Ministry study were Associação Mutual Ser Empresa ESS; Caja de Compensacion Familiar de la Guajira; and Asociacion Mutual Barrios Unidos de Quibdo, according to the ministry report .

In all, the top 13 EPS networks in the contributive sector were (in order):

1. Suramericana EPS
2. Sanitas EPS
3. Aliansalud EPS
4. Nueva EPS
5. Compensar EPS
6. Salud Total EPS
7. EPS Famisanar
8. Saludvida EPS
9. Coomeva EPS
10. Servicio Occidental de Salud EPS
11. Comfenalco Valle EPS
12. Cruz Blanca EPS
13. Cafesalud EPS

The top 10 EPS’s in the subsidized sector were:


1. Asociacion Mutual Ser
2. CCF de la Guajira
3. Ambuq ARS
4. Coosalud EPS
5. Comfacor
6. Comfaoriente
7. Comfasucre
8. CCF Cajacopi Atlantico
9. Emdisalud ESS
10. Ecoopsos ESS


For the study, health-services consumers were asked to rate companies by 51 indicators, with 24 indicators relating to the opportunity to receive certain services, 19 relating to relative satisfaction with services, and eight relating to the ease-of-access to services.

However, a relatively high ranking as indicated in the Ministry study doesn’t mean that all patients are happy with health services. On the contrary: Many of the more-complex, more-expensive health services and certain high-cost drugs aren’t readily available in EPS networks, or at least not very timely.

What’s worse, hospitals and clinics that provide such EPS services too often face enormous delays in reimbursement -- with past-due bills running into the billions of dollars (see Medellin Herald stories in the “hospitals, health and insurance” subcategory under the “Antioquia” main category).

As a result, various hospitals and clinics around Colombia have at times been forced to delay paying wages to hospital workers and vendors – in certain cases, for months at a time. Some hospitals have been shuttered permanently.

What’s more, several national EPS networks have gone bankrupt or have drastically reduced services in many areas, as income simply hasn’t been anywhere near enough to cover expenses -- or (in certain cases) mismanagement and corruption have destroyed the business.


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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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