Thursday, February 27, 2020

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Medellin-based multinational banking giant Bancolombia on February 21 reported a full-year 2019 net income of COP$3.1 trillion (US$917 million), up 17% year-on-year.

However, fourth quarter (4Q) 2019 net income dropped 46% compared to third quarter (3Q) 2019, to COP$878 billion (US$260 million), according to the company.

Gross loans in 4Q 2019 grew 4.9% when compared to 4Q 2018, while Colombian peso-denominated loans grew 8.7% when compared to 4Q 2018.

Net interest income was COP$2.84 trillion (US$840 million) for 4Q 2019, up 0.8% year-on-year, according to the company.

Annualized net interest margin for 4Q 2019 was 5.6%, up 10 basis points during the quarter but down 40 basis points when compared to 4Q 2018.

“Provision charges for the [latest] quarter were COP$1.13 trillion [US$334 million] and the coverage ratio for 90-day past due loans was 194.3%,” according to Bancolombia.

“Provision charges increased by 14.4% when compared to 4Q 2018 and by 56.3% compared to 3Q 2019. New past-due loans totaled COP$730 billion [US$216 million] for the [latest] quarter,” the company added.

“Operating expenses increased by 16.2% when compared to 4Q 2018 and 10.7% when compared to 3Q 2019. The increase in operating expenses was mainly explained by the depreciation of the peso versus the dollar over the last twelve months and higher expenses related to foreclosed assets,” according to the company.

As of December 31, 2019, Bancolombia’s assets totaled COP$236 trillion (US$69.8 billion), up 7.3% compared to 4Q 2018. “The increase in total assets during the year is largely explained by the growth in the loan book and cash,” according to the company.

Meanwhile, as of December 31, 2019, Bancolombia’s liabilities totaled COP$207.3 trillion (US$61.3 billion), down 0.3% from the end of 3Q 2019 but up 7.2% compared to 4Q 2018

“During the [latest] quarter, the COP appreciated 5.8% versus the U.S. dollar and over the past 12 months, it depreciated 0.8%. The average exchange rate for 4Q 2019 was 1.3% higher than the one in 3Q 2019 and 11% higher in 2019 when compared to 2018,” according to the company

“As of December 31, 2019, the operations in Banco Agricola in El Salvador, Banistmo in Panama and BAM in Guatemala, represented 26% of total gross loans.

“Gross loans denominated in currencies other than COP, originated by the operations in Central America, the offshore operation of Bancolombia Panama, Puerto Rico and the U.S. dollar-denominated loans in Colombia accounted for 32.8% [of all loans] and decreased by 6.8% during 4Q 2019 (when expressed in COP), explained mainly by the appreciation of the COP against the U.S. dollar during the quarter.

“Total reserves (allowances in the balance sheet) for loan losses increased by 2.9% during the quarter and totaled COP$10.9 trillion [US$ billion], equivalent to 6.0% of gross loans at the end of the quarter,” the company added.

As of December 31, 2019, Bancolombia’s liabilities totaled COP$207.3 trillion (US$3.2 billion), down 0.3% from the end of 3Q 2019 but up 7.2% compared to 4Q 2018.

“Deposits by customers totaled COP$157 trillion [US$46 billion] or 75.8% of liabilities at the end of 4Q 2019, increasing by 4.8% when compared to 3Q 2019 and by 10.6% over the last 12 months. The net loans-to-deposits ratio was 109% at the end of 4Q 2019 -- decreasing when compared to 115.6% at the end of 3Q 2019.

“Bancolombia’s funding strategy during the last months has been to reduce the average life and cost of time deposits and promote saving and checking accounts in the consumer segment in order to keep the funding cost at a minimum. The objective is to build and maintain ample liquidity and stable margins,” the company added.

“The deterioration of the loan portfolio (new past due loans including charge-offs) was COP$730 billion [US$216 million] in 4Q 2019. Provision charges (net of recoveries) totaled COP$1.1 trillion [US$325 million] in 4Q 2019, mainly explained by some deterioration in the corporate portfolio in Central America. Also, there was an expected deterioration in the consumer portfolio in line with the growth of this segment,” according to Bancolombia.

As of December 31, 2019, Bancolombia had 31,075 employees, 16,740 banking agents, 975 branch offices and 6,169 ATMs. The company also served more than 15 million customers, according Bancolombia.

Medellin-based multinational foods manufacturer Grupo Nutresa on February 21 reported a 5.2% year-on-year net income boost for full-year 2019, to COP$513 billion (US$152 million).

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 13.5% year-on-year, to COP$1.3 trillion (US$385 million), while sales jumped 10.5% to COP$9.9 trillion (US$2.9 billion).

For fourth-quarter (4Q) 2019, profits inched-up by 0.9% year-on-year, to COP$508 billion (US$150 million), while EBITDA rose 19.6%, to COP$1.1 trillion (US$325 million).

Full-year 2019 sales in Colombia grew 8.1% year-on-year, hitting COP$6.2 trillion (US$1.8 billion). Colombia sales were 62.3% of total global sales.

International sales increased by 14.5% in Colombian-peso terms, hitting COP$ 3.76 trillion (US$1.1 billion), or 3% higher year-on-year in U.S.-dollar terms.

“More than 80% of this [corporate-wide] growth is driven by higher volumes registered in all the business units of the group,” according to Nutresa.

“Gross profit for the period amounts to COP$4.4 trillion [US$1.3 billion], with a decrease in the gross margin of 0.8% compared to that of 2018, because of an increase in the cost of some raw materials and the [COP-to-U.S. dollar] exchange rate associated with several [operating units] during the year,” the company added.

As for non-operating revenue-and-costs impacts, Nutresa recorded a 22.2% increase in financial expenses “due to the recording of the liability obligation derived from the IFRS 16 accounting standard. The expenses corresponding to the group’s interest-on-debt decreased as a result of lower rates of financing,” the company added.

Medellin-based multinational cement/concrete producer Cementos Argos on February 21 reported US$37 million net income for full-year 2019, a 39% decline year-on year as measured in U.S. dollars.

Revenues were essentially flat at US$2.85 billion in 2019 versus US$2.84 billion in 2018, while earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 2.9% year-on-year, to US$535 million.

Fourth-quarter (4Q) 2019 net income fell 39% year-on-year, to US$48.8 million, but 4Q 2019 EBITDA rose 7.1% year-on-year, to US$479 million. Gross revenues rose 3.7%, to US$686 million.

“In the United States -- the company’s main market -- cement sales reached 6.3 million tons, with record growth of 9.5% or around 545,000 tons,” according to Argos. U.S. market revenues rose 7.8% year-on-year, to US$1.6 billion, while EBITDA rose 12%, to US$268 million.

Corporate-wide across all markets, Cementos Argos dispatched 16 million tons of cement (up 0.6% over 2018) and 10 million cubic meters of concrete (down 1.5%) in 2019.

“These volumes reflect a positive growth of the demand in the United States, the still-challenging market conditions in Honduras and Panama and the short-term effect of the strategy to recover prices in Colombia,” according to the company.

"In Colombia, a significant price recovery was achieved, supported by good growth in demand and growing acceptance of Argos' value proposition, both in the mass markets and industrial markets,” according to the company.

“Of the 34 countries in which the company sells, measured in U.S. dollars, Colombia has the lowest-priced cement,” which discourages imports competition, according to Argos.

Despite advantages in cement prices and value proposition, Colombia results were affected by “high inflation of fuel costs, which increased 7.14% in 2019, especially due to the increase in the internal price of coal during the first semester,” according to the company.

Argos also suffered a temporary decline in sales because of a landslide near its Rioclaro, Antioquia plant, which caused a 13-day closure of the Medellin-Bogotá highway.

As a result, Colombia cement volumes dipped 3% year-on-year and concrete sales fell 5.3%, according to the company.

Despite those setbacks, Colombia 2019 revenues nevertheless rose 3.8% year-on-year, to COP$2.3 trillion (US$677 million), while Colombia EBITDA rose 20% year-on-year, to COP$522 billion (US$153 million), according to the company.

“The Colombian market continues to show a positive growth trend,” according to Argos. “Important infrastructure, housing and commercial buildings projects continue to drive the development of the sector.”

On the other hand, in its Caribbean and Central America regional markets, Argos faced “significant challenges due to the short-term difficulties facing the economies of Honduras and Panama.” Nevertheless, Argos “managed to compensate to some extent the impact on the results with the growth of exports and the good performance of operations in the Dominican Republic and Haiti,” according to the company.

Even so, the Caribbean/Central America region “remains the most profitable for the company in terms of EBITDA margin and return on capital employed,” according to Argos.

Medellin-based electric power giant Celsia on February 20 announced that its full-year 2019 net income rose 72% year-on-year, to COP$603 billion (US$177 million),

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) likewise rose year-on-year, to COP$1.26 trillion (US$370 million), while gross revenues increased 9%, to COP$3.7 trillion (US$1.08 billion), according to the company.

Fourth-quarter (4Q) net income also rose 77% year-on-year, to COP$191 billion (US$56 million), while EBITDA rose 20% and revenues climbed 7%.

Celsia credits the growth in revenues and profits in part to the sale of its former Free Zone thermal power plant and also the acquisition of electric power distribution and marketing operations in Tolima.

Other 2019 highlights included “creation of platforms for investment for the development of medium and large-sized solar projects,” build-out of more transmission assets, and “the beginning of the development of a thermal power project with the size appropriate to [maintaining power-output] balance,” paired with its intermittent renewable-power generation.

Colombia revenues accounted for 84% of the consolidated total, with Central America accounting for the other 16%.

“Income generation in Colombia during the [fourth] quarter totaled COP$210 billion [US$61.8 million] – up 29% -- excluding the effects of the [sale of the Free Zone power plant] in 2018,” according to Celsia.

Total power generation in the latest quarter was 1,037 gigawatt-hours (GWh), down 29% mainly because of the sale of the Free Zone power plant in 2018. “If we exclude Free Zone from that figure, the decrease is 7%, explained by lower hydropower generation,” according to Celsia.

The company closed 2019 with a debt of COP$3.8 trillion (US$1.12 billion), down COP$713 billion (US$210 million) compared to the third quarter of 2019. “We continue to reduce net debt/consolidated EBITDA,” according to Celsia. “At the end of 2019, the ratio was 2.71 times, lower than the 3.9 times recorded at the end of the first half of 2019.”

As for social-environmental initiatives, Celsia boasted that it planted 4.3 million trees around 30 municipalities of Valle del Cauca, plus two areas in Antioquia and one in Tolima, restoring more than 3,300 hectares through the “ReverdeC” program.

The company also invested in voluntary and compulsory social-impact-compensation programs including energy and water upgrades for various schools; road construction projects; and development of cultural, sports and health activities, according to the company.

Celsia is a division of Medellin-based power, cement and airport/highway concessionaire Grupo Argos.

Uber-Colombia announced February 20 that it’s relaunching computerized application-based alternative taxi services, which had been terminated February 1 because the Colombian government ruled that Uber had failed to comply with all legal requirements for such services.

According to the announcement (in Spanish, see: the newly revised service, “which is temporary, allows [customers] to reach [their] destination by renting a car with a driver. How? By accepting a contract through our application on each occasion and each product, with one additional click.

“In addition, you can customize the conditions of your experience with the [vehicle operator], such as deciding the route you want to follow or the music you want to listen to.

“We want to build an inclusive, flexible, friendly and accessible community for all ... It is our commitment to Colombia. #UberSeReinventaPorColombiaUber reinvents itself to operate again in Colombia and is already providing services.

“Starting at 8 a.m. today February 20, Uber restarted its operation in Colombia . . . We will also offer various services that include traditional and new media such as taxis, so that everyone has the opportunity to take advantage of technology to provide a better service.

“The new platform will offer five services to Colombians: By hours [PorHoras], which will allow people to rent a vehicle with a driver and pay for the time they use it; ‘UberYa,’ with which people can rent a vehicle with driver to move around the city in an agile and reliable way.

“Another of the services will be ‘Economy,’ by which you can rent vehicles with a driver that will include vehicles with not-so-recent models, which can be accessed at a lower price, and will not be available in all cities of Colombia.

“’Comfort’ will be the premium alternative with which you can rent more modern vehicles with driver; ‘Uber XL’ will be aimed at large groups and advise dividing the rental price among all to save,” according to the company.

Medellin-based multinational retail grocery and dry-goods marketer Grupo Exito announced February 19 that its full-year 2019 net profits came-in at COP$57.6 billion (US$16.9 million), down sharply from the COP$253 billion (US74$ million) in 2018 when the company still included Brazil operations (since sold).

“The result was impacted by variations in the tax [regimes], the contribution of international operations and performance of the units registered as discontinued,” according to Exito.

While profits (as measured in total pesos) dipped, operating income rose 6.3% year-on-year, to COP$15.3 trillion (US$4.5 billion) in 2019, versus COP$14.8 trillion (US$4.3 billion) in 2018, with electronic commerce, large-format sales and home-delivery sales representing 75% of the sales growth.

Recurring earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose slightly year-on-year, at COP$1.28 trillion (US$376 million).

Colombia sales were the best in three years, up 4.8% year-on-year, according to the company, to COP$11.75 trillion (US3.4$ billion), according to the company.

“The results of Colombia are due to the cost-effective implementation of innovative value formats (Exito Wow, Carulla Freshmarket and Surtimayorista) and the execution of the omnichannel strategy (electronic commerce and domiciles),” according to Exito.

“E-commerce sales channels grew 37% in 2019 and represent 4.5% of sales in Colombia, compared to 3.4% in 2018,” the company added.

“The positive results of the Grupo Éxito operation in Colombia show the assertiveness in the development of strategies leveraged in innovation and transformation:

“1. Expansion of value formats: Éxito Wow closed 2019 with nine stores under this format, growing 13.4% of its sales and representing 17.5% of the total sales of the Éxito brand.

“2. Carulla FreshMarket, the concept of the group's premium brand that offers customers multiple experiences, fresh, healthy products and superior service, ended 2019 with 13 points of sale in the country, which grew sales by 12. 7% compared to the previous year and represented 17% of Carulla's total sales.

“3. Carulla SmartMarket, the smart commerce laboratory that opened its doors last December, offers its customers new experiences that reduce their shopping time, also integrating the concept of Carulla FreshMarket and important sustainability initiatives such as plastic use reduction. This proposal had an investment of COP$4 billion (US$1.17 million) and has about 20 technological formats.

“4. Surtimayorista, the format designed for professional customers and final consumers, completed 30 stores and consolidated in the central area of he country. Sales of the cash and carry format brand grew 17.8% in 2019 compared to the previous year.

“The e-commerce platforms and had more than 86 million visits, 40.4% more than in 2018. Orders for these channels achieved 441,000 shipments in 2019.

“The ‘market place’ (virtual platform at the service of other companies) increased its sales by 29.4% in 2019 compared to the previous year.

“The ‘last- mile’ [home delivery] service had double-digit growth in the number of shipments in the year, and digital catalogs of 42%. For its part, the ‘Click & Collect’ service (purchase and pick up) increased the number of its orders by 25%,” the company added.

Medellin-based multinational electric power giant EPM announced February 19 that its board of directors gave formal approval for the company to bid on the “CaribeMar” power company in Bolívar, Cesar, Córdoba and Sucre departments in Colombia.

If EPM were to win the auction, then its national share of the Colombia power market would jump to 35% (19 million customers), up from 23% today.

“After an exhaustive and comprehensive analysis process, the EPM board of directors in its session on Wednesday, February 19 approved that the company present the documentation for its participation in the auction process of the shares of ‘CaribeMar,’ one of the two companies that will arise from the separation of markets of Electricaribe,” according to EPM.

Following the financial collapse of Electricaribe and a subsequent national government takeover, the government decided to split the auction of its assets into two parts: CaribeMar (Bolívar, Cesar, Córdoba and Sucre) and CaribeSol (Atlántico, Magdalena and La Guajira).

“Entering CaribeMar means for EPM a unique growth opportunity to reach the Atlantic coast market and provide its service to 1.5 million customers. CaribeMar represents approximately 12% of the share of the national energy market,” according to EPM

As noted in a separate report last month by Colombian business newspaper Portafolio, the “CaribeMar” portion of the former Electricaribe company includes 65% of the hotel sector of the tourist-popular Caribbean coast as well as many large industrial and commercial customers.

While Electricaribe has historically suffered from widespread theft of electric power through illegal connections, the “CaribeMar” area suffers less than the “CaribeSol” area, according to that report.

Not mentioned in the Portafolio report -- but widely known here in Antioquia and admired by power-experts internationally -- is that EPM pioneered the development of low-cost, pay-as-you-go metering systems that avoid power theft, especially in low-income neighborhoods.

This novel system enables people to buy “power cards” (similar to credit cards) in ubiquitous neighborhood stores. These cards provide a certain number of kilowatt-hours at subsidized power prices. Hence people on limited budgets buy only the power they actually want -- at affordable prices -- rather than stealing power through illegal connections and subsequently wasting “free” power by profligate usage, irrespective of actual need.

Colombia’s Energy Ministry announced last year that following years of debate over how to resolve chronic financial losses and massive power thefts at Electricaribe – with a resulting lack of investment in required infrastructure -- the government decided to assume COP$1.2 trillion (US$353 million) in Electricaribe’s pension liabilities, and then sell-off the assets to other power companies with better track records and greater financial muscle.

Electricaribe divisions will require about COP$8 trillion (US$2.35 billion) in infrastructure investments over the next 10 years, according to the Energy Ministry.

Meanwhile, upper-middle-class and wealthier residential power customers (“estratos 4,5 and 6”) throughout Colombia have been paying a special COP$4 (US$0.001) per-kilowatt surcharge to help Electricaribe limp along until new owners are found, the Energy Ministry noted.

Medellin-based multinational cement/concrete giant Cementos Argos on February 14 announced the debut of a US$78 million “green cement” processing facility at its 2.3 million tonnes/year Rioclaro, Antioquia cement plant.

The new technology cuts carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by up-to-38% while cutting energy consumption by 30%, according to Argos.

“For the first time in Colombia is this type of cement produced, in which a porrtion of the traditional ‘clinker’ raw material is replaced by thermally activated clays (artificial pozzolana),” according to Argos.

The new facility thermally activates 450,000 tonnes/year of certain clays used in Portland cement production.

“With this project we are leading the industry and sowing the seeds of the Argos of the future, which starts today a new production line in Rioclaro, but which has a gigantic growth potential in all geographies,” added Cementos Argos President Juan Esteban Calle.

The new facility also “allows Argos greater flexibility and positions it as the first cement producer in Colombia to offer its customers a broad portfolio of products,” according to Argos.

“The entry into operation of this new [production] line, added to the modern Cartagena [Colombia] plant and other facilities in the national geography, gives Argos the largest installed capacity in the country for the production of cement and concrete,” the company added.

Colombia-based aviation giant Avianca announced February 13 the launch of its new “Avianca Express” division for new routes including flights from Medellin’s downtown Olaya Herrera airport (EOH).

Absent from EOH for 20 years, “Avianca Express” soon will launch flights utilizing ATR-72 propeller aircraft to and from downtown Medellin -- initially serving Quibdó, Montería and Bucaramanga, starting March 30.

“Given the importance of Medellín as a development hub in the Colombian territory, the Olaya Herrera airport will be one of the most robust foci of operations that Avianca Express will have to connect the regions of the country,” according to the company.

Avianca Express also announced new flights to-and-from Bogota to cities including Corozal, Florencia, Ibagué, Manizales and Villavicencio, according to the company.

Medellin is the only city in Colombia with two airports: Downtown EOH for domestic flights mainly to smaller cities, and Jose Maria Cordova (JMC) international airport in the eastern Medellin suburb of Rionegro.

Medellin-based Compañia de Empaques -- manufacturer of more than 1,500 types of packaging materials and fibers for industrial, agricultural, construction and infrastructure sectors – on February 10 revealed in a filing with Colombia’s Superfinanciera oversight agency that its full-year 2019 profits hit COP$12.8 billion (US$3.77 million), up from COP$10.6 billion (US$3 million) in 2018.

At its upcoming shareholders meeting March 4 in the Medellin suburb of Itagüí, the company’s board proposes to pay COP$5.9 billion (US$1.7 million) in dividends, with monthly payments of COP$40 (US$0.01) per share between April 2020 and March 2021, according to the filing.

Compañía de Empaques -- which produces more than 30,000 tonnes per year of products and employs a workforce of 1,500 -- boasts of more than 75 years of experience in “transformation of natural fibers and plastic resins into practical [packaging] solutions.”

Products include “sacks and fabrics of synthetic fiber and natural fiber, zunchos [specialty threads and cords], packaging meshes, shade fabrics for the protection of crops, natural and synthetic fiber rope, erosion-control mantles, mesh and plastic protection and enclosure fabrics, printable input solutions for signage, advertising and commerce, and packaging and storage solutions for homes and offices.

“Our corporate social responsibility is focused on promoting the planting and transformation of fique -- a biodegradable and very resistant fiber native to the Andes -- which represents an important source of livelihood for more than 50,000 Colombian families and contributes to the substitution of illegal crops in our country. For this social purpose, we have the support of different national and foreign entities,” the company adds.

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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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