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Medellin-based multinational foods giant Nutresa announced July 26 that its first half (1H) 2019 net income rose 14.6% year-on-year, to COP$2.5 trillion (US$759 million).

Consolidated sales also rose by 7.4% year-on-year, according to the company.

“Colombia [revenues] continue with a positive performance, at COP$2.9 trillion [US$880 million], representing 62.7% of total revenues and up 5.2% compared to the same period of the previous year,” according to Nutresa.

International sales, at COP$1.7 trillion (US$516 million), represented 37.3% of total sales and were 11.2% higher than in the first half of 2018, according to the company.

Operating expenses grew by 4.5%, but operating income jumped even higher, at 16.2% year-on-year.

As for earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), this metric rose 20% year-on-year, to COP$648 billion (US$196 million), while EBITDA margin came-in at 13.9%, according to the company.



Colombia’s national infrastructure agency (Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura, ANI) announced July 31 that the 254-kilometers-long “Mar 2” highway project connecting Medellin to new Atlantic ports just won financial close.

According to ANI, the project got US$652 million in finance from three sources: China Development Bank (US$418 million), Sumitomo Mitsui Banking (US$84 million) and Colombia’s Financiera de Desarrollo Nacional (FDN) finance agency (US$150 million).

Colombia President Iván Duque announced the financing deal following a meeting in Beijing this week with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Mar 2” is the first “fourth generation” (4G) highway concession project in Colombia involving China Harbour Engineering Company, according to ANI.

Once “Mar 2” and the connecting “Mar 1” highways are complete, freight transport between Medellin and new ports in the Uraba region will be slashed to four hours, greatly improving the competitiveness of Medellin’s industrial and commercial sectors.

The Mar 2 project includes 54 bridges and 19 tunnels, and will make connections with several “4G’ highways as well as the under-construction “Toyo" tunnel west of Medellin, which will become Colombia’s longest tunnel -- and one of the largest in all South America..

‘Pacifico 1’ Tunnel Excavation Completed

On another front, the US$790 million “Pacifico 1” 4G highway project between Medellin’s southern suburb of Caldas and the Cauca River port town of Bolombolo just completed excavation of two parallel, 2.8-kilometers-long tunnels near Sinifaná in Antioquia.

Following the excavations, the next step is lining the tunnels with concrete and installing lighting, fire controls and emergency communications systems, according to ANI.

While completion of the “Sinifaná” tunnel excavation is a positive step forward, the same project suffered a reversal two months ago when heavy rains caused a landslide that wiped-out a 300-meters-long stretch of under-construction “Pacifico 1” highway as well as 300 meters of the existing highway below, temporarily blocking the most convenient route between Medellin and Bolombolo.

Restoration of the existing highway and reconstruction of the ruined section of new highway is expected to take many months, probably pushing-back the expected completion date of Pacifico 1.


Colombia-based Cemex LatAm – producer and marketer of cement and concrete in Colombia, Panamá, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala – on July 25 posted a second quarter (2Q) 2019 net loss of US$4 million, down from a US$4 million net profit in 2Q 2018.

However, consolidated volumes of gray cement reached 1.5 million tons during 2Q 2019, up 2% year-on-year, “driven by higher volumes mainly in Colombia,” according to the company.

“In Colombia, net sales increased by 7% during the quarter in terms of local currency, driven by higher cement volumes, as well as higher cement and aggregate prices,” according to Cemex.

“However, this positive trend in sales was not enough to mitigate the increase in costs of coal, electricity and distribution in Colombia, nor the weakness in Central American markets,” added Cemex LatAm general director Jaime Muguiro.

“Despite this challenging environment, we are satisfied with the generation of free cash flow and debt reduction during the first half [2019]. Our free cash flow reached US$40 million in this period, an improvement of US$24 million compared to the same period of 2018. We reduced our net debt by US$45 million, from US$827 million in December [2018] to US$782 million in June [2019],” he said.


Medellin-based textile and clothing industry trade group Inexmoda announced July 25 that the just-concluded, 30th annual “Colombiamoda” fashion show here generated sales deals estimated at US$143 million.

While that’s a 15% dip from last year’s Colombiamoda sales estimate, it’s still a positive sign for Colombia’s fashion industry, with Medellin and Antioquia continuing to lead the way.

According to Inexmoda, this year’s show included 11,800 buyers, 12% of which were internationals – mainly from the USA, Ecuador and México. Among the Colombian national buyers, most were from Antioquia, Cundinamarca and Valle del Cauca, according to the trade group. A parallel “Textiles2” show here included another 800 buyers.

In addition to the in-person attendance, another 70,000 people were able to tune-into Colombiamoda 2019 via internet, through a special “Concept Market” and “Colombiamoda Digital” channel.

This year’s edition included 25 fashion runway shows featuring Colombian designers and 206 models from 28 agencies, according to Inexmoda.

In another novelty this year, Inexmoda, Colombia trade promotion agencyProColombia and international package-delivery company FedEx organized a special show targeting international buyers of Colombian fashion designs.

On the education front for the show, Inexmoda and Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana attracted 8,700 in-person attendees and 6,000 internet streaming attendees for several lectures and workshops on issues affecting the fashion and textile industries.

A parallel fall-winter 2019-2020 fashion-trends "outlook forum" included 16 more lectures. In addition, a first-ever “prospectives forum” enabled 900 visitors to experience future design possibilities using artificial intelligence technologies provided by Microsoft.

Besides generating new business deals for fashion designers and clothing manufacturers, Colombiamoda 2019 generated an extra US$12 million in income for local hotels, restaurants and vendors, according to Medellin’s Secretary of Industry and Tourism.


Medellin-based multinational electric power giant EPM announced July 18 that its 2.4-gigawatt (GW) “Hidroituango” hydroelectric power project in Antioquia has reached a crucial milestone: Completion of the 434.6-meters-high (above sea-level) dam.

Still remaining: installation of turbines and power-control works in the mechanical room, damaged last year by diverting Cauca River water through that room because of collapse of an adjacent, temporary diversion tunnel.

The Hidroituango project – now roughly estimated to cost about US$5 billion, mainly because of a three-year-delay in power output resulting from the collapse of the diversion tunnel – is scheduled to start 600 megawatts (MW) power production in late 2021, with full production gradually increasing in 2022 and 2023 until full capacity is reached in 2024.

Hidroituango ultimately will generate about 17% of the entire Colombian power output, along with untold billions of dollars of zero-emissions, “green” power revenues and profits for EPM (and its sole shareholder, the city of Medellin) in coming decades.

Meanwhile, Colombia’s Controller-General announced July 15 that the three-year delay at Hidroituango – pushing-back the originally scheduled December 2018 partial start-up – probably will cost EPM around COP$4 trillion (US$1.25 billion). However, EPM announced that it’s still studying the Controller’s report and hence wouldn’t provide further comment.

Bond Deal

On another front, EPM announced July 11 that it successfully launched a US$1.38 billion bond offering in the international market, further boosting investor confidence in the company despite the Hidroituango setback.

Investors from North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America eagerly responded to the deal, at three times the total offered.

The deal enabled EPM early payback of US$1.03 billion in existing, higher-cost debt and early buyback of another US$1.1 billion in another debt offering, according to the company.

Solar-Power Offering Expands

On yet another front, EPM announced July 10 that it’s expanding its existing solar-power business beyond large-scale commercial and industrial customers to homeowners and small businesses.

The new deal includes financing, installation of solar panels, a required power inverter, the required meter, maintenance, and provision of the required legal paperwork enabling customers to become net generators of power back into the local and national grid.


Colombia’s national statistics agency (DANE) on July 12, 2019 revealed that the 2018 national census found Medellin’s resident population hit 2.37 million, up 7.6% from the last census in 2005.

Meanwhile, the adjacent suburbs in Valle de Aburra grew by 12% over the same period, with the result that Medellin plus its neighboring suburbs now have a total resident population of 3.72 million, according to DANE.

The census data also indicate that during 2018, another 355,000 Venezuelans emigrated to Colombia, with Bogota absorbing the biggest portion, followed by Medellin.

In the last three years, more than 2 million Venezuelans have fled to Colombia thanks to disastrous socialist policies that have wrecked the Venezuelan economy and plunged millions into absolute poverty.

Second on the numerical list of emigrants to Colombia last year was USA (4,863 emigrants), followed by (in order) Ecuador, Spain, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Panama, Brazil and Peru.

The DANE statistical report also found that Antioquia department (of which Medellin is the capital) census survey indicated the highest relative quality-of-life ranking, whereas Bogota came in at fifth place.

The ranking incorporated factors such as relative satisfaction with security, work, income and health, according to DANE.


Colombia’s national infrastructure agency (Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura, ANI) announced July 12, 2019 that the COP$110 billion (US$34 million) expansion of the cargo terminal at Medellin’s José María Córdova (JMC) international airport is nearly complete.

“The project awarded by ANI to the operator of Aeropuertos Centro Norte (Airplan) seeks via this extension to improve the logistics process of imports and exports, and reduce costs and transport times in this area of the country,” according to the agency .

The expansion works in the cargo terminal include adaptation of an administrative center, a cargo and warehousing service module, the extension of more than 33,000 square meters of taxiways and berms, the expansion of the platform that will expand from the current 14,000 square meters to more than 27,000 square meters and the construction of about 16,000 square meters of parking, according to ANI.

“Currently, this terminal serves the cargo transported by specialized airlines such as Avianca Cargo, Centurion Cargo, UPS, Aerosucre, Cargo Cup, Cargolux, Latam Cargo, Air Canada Cargo, Fedex and DHL as well as commercial passenger flights,” according to ANI.

“Among exportable products by air, flowers are considered the main transit through this terminal to destinations such as the United States, with the highest percentage of shipments, as well as to Japan, United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain and Russia.

“Among the new works was the adaptation of 3000 square meters of cold rooms that will allow a better management of [flower exports] and other loads, especially agricultural goods. It is estimated that, on average, flower shipments take between 11 and 16 hours from the initial harvesting to loading on the planes,” according to the agency.

Single Inspection Zone

Meanwhile, the new terminal also features one of the first single-cargo-inspection zones in all Colombia. This new area “seeks to implement new inspection procedures to streamline routine exercises carried out by entities such as the National Tax and Customs Directorate of Colombia (DIAN), the Anti-Narcotics police, the Invima (Colombia’s sanitary inspection regulatory agency) and the ICA (Colombia’s national agricultural research agency), according to ANI.

Passenger Traffic Jumps

On a related front, Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste (GAdS) announced  July 3 that domestic passenger traffic through JMC airport from January through June 2019 is already up 19% year-on-year, totalling 4.7 million passengers. Meanwhile, international passenger traffic through JMC from January-June 2019 likewise is up 13% year-on-year, to 857,136 passengers.


Colombia’s national infrastructure agency (Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura, ANI) announced February 27, 2019 that the existing, congested two-lane highways connecting Rionegro, Llanogrande and Medellin’s Jose Maria Cordova (JMC) international airport will expand to four lanes.

The COP$118 billion (US$38 million) project will tap funds generated by the existing toll booths of the various “Devimed” highways east of Medellin, according to ANI.

“The [highway expansion] works will begin after the delivery of [adjacent] properties by the Civil Aeronautics Authority [Aerocivil], the government of Antioquia and the municipality of Rionegro,” according to ANI.

In total, 12.6 kilometers of existing two-lane highways will expand to four lanes, linking the city of Rionegro to Llanogrande and then onward to the existing roundabout adjacent to JMC airport.

The rapidly growing “oriente” region east of Medellin is about to experience even more traffic congestion when the “Tunel de Oriente” tunnel linking Medellin to JMC airport opens as expected in May or June 2019.

“The next step for the start of the work will be the delivery of the [adjacent] properties by the government of Antioquia and the Aerocivil for the construction of the 6.4-kilometer stretch between Llanogrande and the roundabout to the Airport, while the municipality of Rionegro must deliver [properties adjacent to] the corresponding to 6.2 kilometers between Rionegro and Llanogrande,” according to ANI.

The “Devimed” highways east of Medellin include the four-lane, divided highway between Acevedo (north Medellin, near Bello) and Santuario -- all part of the existing Medellin-Bogota highway.

Other “Devimed” toll highways east of Medellin include the existing two-lane roads connecting El Retiro, La Ceja, La Union, Carmen de Viboral, Marinilla and Santuario.


Medellin Mayor Federico Gutiérrez announced June 13, 2019 that the city’s enormously popular “Metro” public-transport network will add yet another zero-emissions aerial-tram “Metrocable” system -- helping to stem air pollution mainly caused by obsolete diesel and gasoline vehicles.

The 2.8-kilometers-long, COP$298 billion (US$99 million) “El Picacho” aerial tram is due to start-up in late 2019, he estimated.

Local residents had to abandon nearly 400 homes to make way for construction of the new route.

The “Picacho” line would serve about 160,000 people living in the working-class Northwest neighborhoods of Castilla and Doce de Octubre.

That line will join Metro’s existing electric-powered Metro rail system, an expanding electric-powered “Tranvia” road-tram network, the “Encycla” bicycle system, and the low-emissions, natural-gas-fueled “Metroplus” bus rapid transit (BRT) systems, which are gradually being replaced by 100% pure electric buses.

Medellin gets virtually all its electric power from zero-emissions hydroelectric dams, with Medellin-based power utility EPM expanding capacity with the 2.4-gigawatt “Hidroituango” hydropower plant partially starting-up in late 2021.

Exito, EPM Team-up on EV Recharging

Meanwhile, Medellin-based multinational supermarket giant Exito has gradually expanded a network of public electric vehicle (EV) recharging stations in Medellin – initially at the Éxito Poblado supermarket and at the “Viva” mall in the Laureles neighborhood.

While only a handful of EVs exist in Medellin to-date, local car manufacturer Renault (and its joint-venture partner Nissan) is one of the world’s leading makers of mass-market EVs -- mainly in Europe, so far. Renault initially launched sales of its “Twizy” mini-EV here and then in 2018 debuted the "Zoe" EV four-passenger sedan. BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi and BYD also are marketing pure EVs here.

 


New rules adopted by the Colombian government allow long-time foreign nationals with existing, valid permanent residency status in Colombia to avoid the once-every-five-years trip to Bogota to renew the visa that’s already stamped inside your non-Colombian, foreign passport.

However, already-permanent, long-time legal residents here (editor's note: I've been living here continuously for 14 years) still need to renew their “cedula de extranjeria” every five years, according to Migracion Colombia, the official Colombian government migratory agency.

Even despite elimination of the former requirement to renew your visa every five years, you still might find it useful to have that existing Colombia visa stamp transferred at Migracion Colombia offices in Bogota from your expired, non-Colombian passport to your new, non-Colombian passport. Several agencies here in Medellin can do that for you, enabling you to avoid that personal trip to Migracion Colombia in Bogota.

On the other hand, personal reports from some expats here indicate that the old Colombia visa stamp  in your old passport (example: the old, expired USA passport that now has two holes drilled through it) has sometimes been accepted by Colombian immigration authorities whenever re-entering Colombia from a foreign trip. But to eliminate any doubts or worries, you might as well have your existing Colombian visa stamp transferred to your new, non-Colombian passport, whenever you have to renew that foreign passport.

As for your “cedula de extranjeria,” this document can be renewed at the Migracion Colombia agency office (formerly "DAS") in the Belen neighborhood of Medellin, every five years.

Meanwhile, Colombia’s foreign ministry announced that other changes to visa regulations took effect in November 2017.

In that announcement (see complete text in Spanish here: http://legal.legis.com.co/document?obra=legcol&document=legcol_74fa455ce7e44df19296af36ef78d8e8), the Ministry clarified that it’s regrouping many different types of current visas into three main categories: visitor (V), migrant (M) and resident (R).

Many of the changes are superficial (changes of words or categories, but not meaning), but some clarifications are worth noting.

For example: “Visitors” for tourism, for investigating business opportunities, for contract negotiations and for sales representations are allowed stays of up-to-180 days, but such visitors cannot do local contract work.

However, “visitors” attending trade shows, sporting events, artistic events, doing film productions, executing journalism assignments, occupying temporary corporate assignments (for a non-Colombia-headquartered company) and performing certain volunteer projects are allowed to “work” at those assignments or events, according to the Ministry.

“Migrants” (those intending to become residents) who are married to a Colombian national -- or parents of a Colombian-born adopted child -- likewise can “work” in Colombia for up-to-three-years, and also can apply to become a “resident” after two years.

In addition, “migrants” that obtain a local work contract or become a partner in a commercial enterprise here can obtain a “resident” visa after five years.

For real-estate investors, “migrant” visas can be obtained by investing at least 350 minimum Colombian monthly salaries. The current Colombian minimum monthly salary -- COP$738,000 – multiplied by 350 equals COP$258 million, or about US$88,000 at current COP/USD exchange rates and current Colombian legal salary minimums.

To obtain the visa, the real-estate investment must be accompanied by proof of free title (“certificado de libertad y tradicion del inmueble adquirido que pruebe titularidad”) as well as proof of registry of the foreign funds used for the purchase (“communicacion expedida por el Departamento de Cambios Internacionales del Banco de la Republica”).

For those seeking a “migrant” visa as a retiree, the applicant must show that a pension (such as Social Security or a private-sector pension) is at least three times the Colombian minimum monthly salary (COP$2,214,000 or about US$753). Alternatively, an applicant could get a “migrant” visa if receiving at least 10 times the minimum monthly salary (COP$7,380,000) if this income is from investments with regular payouts (such as annuities).

For “empresarios” seeking a “migrant” visa, the applicant must show a capital investment of at least 100 minimum monthly salaries (COP$73.8 million or about US$25,000). For “independent” professionals, a “migrant” visa can be obtained with bank records indicating earnings of at least 10 minimum monthly salaries over the prior six months.

Real-estate investors, commercial partners, contracted workers and pensioners with “migrant” visas can apply for “resident” visas after five years.

In addition, registered foreign direct investors (FDIs) investing at least 650 minimum monthly salaries (COP$480 million, or about US$163,000) can apply for a “resident” visa.

Foreigners married to Colombian nationals also will continue to qualify for “resident” visas, as in prior visa regulations. “Resident” visas are good for five years and are renewable.

First-time (and some renewal) visa applications are now processed on-line through the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores web-site (see: http://www.cancilleria.gov.co/tramites_servicios/visas).

Most expats in Colombia make a personal trip to Ministry offices in Bogota to obtain their visa, although some specialist agencies and lawyers here in Medellin offer to handle that process for you.


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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.

Medellin Herald welcomes your editorial contributions, comments and story-idea suggestions. Send us a message using the "contact" section.

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