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Colombia- and Mexico-based real estate search-and-development enabler La Haus announced July 29 that it has raised US$135 million from big international investors including Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos as well as from “new-age” banker Gabriel Gilinski -- son of Colombian banker Jaime Gilinski, considered as Colombia’s second-richest person.

La Haus – with operations in Medellin, Bogota, Mexico City and Guadalajara (Mexico) – was founded by former Colombia President Alvaro Uribe’s two sons, Jerónimo Uribe and Tomás Uribe, along with La Haus president Rodrigo Sánchez-Ríos and chief technology officer Santiago Garcia, according to the company.

Jerónimo and Tomas Uribe met Sánchez-Ríos at Stanford University, and prior to launching La Haus, the Uribe brothers started and ran Jaguar Capital, a Colombian real estate development company that boasted of completing US$350 million worth of retail and residential projects, according to La Haus.

According to the corporate announcement, La Haus just nabbed US$50 million in Series B funding in a follow-on campaign co-led by Acrew Capital and Renegade Partners, paired with US$50 million in debt funding.

The latest round “brings the company’s total Series B funding to $135 million and cements the company’s leadership in Spanish-speaking Latin America,” according to La Haus.

“Funding expansion was driven by exponential growth in Mexico, where transactions grew almost 10 times from 2Q [second quarter] 2020 to 2Q 2021. La Haus expects to achieve more than US$1 billion in annualized gross sales by the end of the year 2021,” according to the company.

“Selling more than 500 homes per month, La Haus is the market leader in Spanish-speaking LatAm by an order of magnitude,” the company added.

Besides the new investments by Bezos and Gilinski, other new investors in the latest round include Endeavor Catalyst, Moore Strategic Ventures, Marc Benioff’s TIME Ventures, Rappi’s Simon Borrero and Medellin-based pop-rock music star Maluma, according to La Haus.

“New funding will be used to fuel geographic expansion and introduce financing solutions to help solve housing inequality. By the end of 2021, La Haus will be in every major metropolitan area in Mexico and Colombia,” the company added.

“The need for new housing in LatAm and other emerging markets is acute. The pace of building new homes is slow because small- and mid-sized developers-- those who build 80% of new homes in LatAm -- are cash constrained. Additionally, mortgages are largely unaffordable for consumers, with banks extending only a fraction of the credit to individuals compared to the U.S., and often at worse terms,” according to the company.

“With the new debt funding and its one-of-a-kind, proprietary data gleaned from thousands of real estate transactions, La Haus is now positioned to extend capital to developers and consumers more quickly, with much lower risk and at better terms,” the company added.


Colombia President Ivan Duque announced July 31 that the nation is on its way to surpass a goal of at least 35 million vaccinations against Covid-19 by end-August 2021 – well ahead of schedule.

Vaccinations are now surging at more than 400,000 persons daily.

With Colombia already having 15.5 million people at least partially vaccinated as of July 31 -- along with 12.2 million now fully vaccinated -- this means Colombia looks on-target to exceed 35 million vaccinations by the end of this month (August).

As of July 31, Colombia had already achieved 27.5 million vaccinations -- 2.5 million more than originally targeted for July. If the nation can achieve an average of about 350,000 shots daily this month, then it will easily surpass the 35-million-shot goal for August.

Meanwhile, Colombia is expanding its vaccination campaign, adding everyone at least 18-years-old, starting this month. That will be followed by a second campaign for those at least 12 years old, starting in late August, according to Health Minister Fernando Ruiz.

The surging vaccination rates spur confidence that Colombia will indeed achieve its goal of getting all 35 million of its most vulnerable populations fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by December 2021.

Meanwhile, Medellin as of July 31 reported having completed 1.89 million total vaccinations, with nearly 900,000 now fully vaccinated – including 717,00 getting the required two-dose regime plus 182,000 more getting the Janssen one-dose shot, according to latest official statistics.

While anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists and some extremist politicians (now even including left-wing demagogue Senator Gustavo Petro) are attacking science-based Covid-19 vaccinations as "useless," President Duque in contrast urges citizens to stay the course.

“Getting vaccinated is everyone’s duty,” Duque stated, adding that the government aims to “quickly reach 30 million,” hence bringing the hoped-for "herd immunity" ever-closer.


Medellin-based multinational foods manufacturer and retailer Grupo Nutresa announced July 30 that its second-quarter (2Q) 2021 net income was essentially flat year-on-year, at COP$140.6 billion (US$36.3 million), versus COP$139.9 billion (US$36 million) in 2Q 2020.

Operating revenues for 2Q 2021 rose to COP$2.9 trillion (US$748 million), up from COP$2.66 trillion (US$686 million) in 2Q 2020.

As for first-half (1H) 2021, consolidated net profit rose 11.5% year-on-year, to COP$357 billion (US$92 million), from COP$331 billion (US$85 million) in 1H 2020, according to the company.

Sales in 1H 2021 rose 8.5% year-on-year, while earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose just 0.4% year-on-year, to COP$749 billion (US$193 million).

“Grupo Nutresa’s revenues in Colombia maintain a positive trend, amounting to COP$3.5 trillion [US$903 million], which represent 60.8% of the total sales, with 11.2% growth rate in relation to the same period in 2020,” according to the company.

“International sales, which totaled to US$625 million, were 6.6% higher than in 2020’s first half and represent 3.2% of the total sales. When stated in Colombian pesos, these sales are equivalent to COP$2.3 trillion, representing a 4.5% growth,” the company added.

Gross margin dipped 1% year-on year “mainly due to the increase in the cost of some raw materials associated with the global commodities super-cycle,” according to the company.

Operating profit rose 0.8% year-on-year, “considering a 7.7% increase in operating expenses, which include expenses associated with biosecurity and cleaning measures, an increase in non-recurring logistics expenses, and a higher investment in our brands at the points of sale,” according to Nutresa.

As for its Covid-19 response, “as of July 30, 65.9% of Grupo Nutresa’s Colombian employees had already initiated the vaccination process,” the company added.

Grupo Nutresa’s various business segments include production and sale of processed meats; cookies and crackers; chocolates; cold drinks; pastas; coffees; edible oils; juices; soups; desserts; teas and coffees; ice creams; fast foods and pet foods.


Colombia-based Cemex LatAm Holdings announced this morning (July 29) that its second quarter (2Q) 2021 net income more than doubled year-on-year, to US$23.8 million.

Operating earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) likewise rose 81% year-on-year, to US$53 million. Net sales – adjusted for currency fluctuations -- jumped 54%, to US$228 million, according to the company.

“Higher cement volumes in all countries, as well as higher prices in Costa Rica and the rest-of-Cemex-LatAm-region, were the main drivers of the improvement,” according to the company. “During the same [2Q] period of last year, sales were impacted by Covid-19 restrictions in most of our markets.”

Cost of sales as a percentage of net sales decreased by 3.7 percentage points during the quarter, from 63.4% in 2Q 2020 to 59.6% in 2Q 2021, according to the company.

The big improvement in operating EBITDA during 2Q 2021 “was due to higher contributions from all our countries. Operating EBITDA margin increased by 3.6 percentage points compared with that of the second quarter of 2020. The margin expansion was mainly driven by higher volumes and lower selling, general and administrative expenses, despite higher maintenance expenses and expenses related to the social protests in Colombia,” the company added.

The net income improvement “was mainly driven by higher operating earnings,” while “net debt declined US$6 million from March to June, reaching US$613 million at the end of the quarter,” according to Cemex LatAm.

“In Colombia, the growth momentum observed in industry cement volumes year-to-date April was interrupted by the social protests, mainly during May. We estimate industry activity returned to first-quarter levels in June, as the road blockades and protests gradually eased.

“The housing and infrastructure sectors continued driving demand in the country. We believe the outlook for cement volumes remains favorable, supported by the resilience of the self-construction sector, record home sales, the execution of the existing 4G [fourth-generation] highway projects, as well as the rollout of new infrastructure programs,” according to the company.

“In Panama, our cement, ready-mix and aggregates volumes showed strong growth during the quarter due to an easy base of comparison in the same period of 2020, which was impacted by Covid-19 restrictions. However, industry cement volumes during the quarter remained weak, below those of 2019.

“In Costa Rica, our cement volumes during the second quarter increased by 16% on a year-over-year basis. The positive volume trend in the industry continued during the quarter, mainly driven by the infrastructure and housing sectors. Our quarterly cement prices improved by 4% year-over-year and by 2% sequentially, in local currency terms.

“In the rest-of-Cemex-LatAm region, our cement volumes during the quarter improved by 25% year-over-year and 9% sequentially, reaching record levels. Cement volumes during the quarter increased year-over-year in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

“Increased remittances supported cement consumption across the region. In Guatemala, our cement volumes were driven mainly by strong activity in the self-construction sector -- a segment where we have a higher relative presence -- and by a gradual recovery in the formal sector.

“Our cement prices improved by 2% year-over-year and 1% sequentially, in local-currency terms.

“In Nicaragua, our cement volumes were driven mainly by the self-construction sector and by government-sponsored projects. Going forward, socio-political risk in the country could increase due to the presidential elections scheduled for this November.”

As for its rest-of-2021 spending plans, “we are guiding to a strategic capex of US$40 million for 2021. US$28 million is related to the development of our overall Maceo [Antioquia] cement plant project in Colombia,” the company added.


Medellin electric power giant EPM announced today (July 28) that its Board of Directors voted to reject a proposed swap of the departmental government of Antioquia’s majority share in the (estimated) US$5 billion Hidroituango hydroelectric project -- in exchange for giving Antioquia a minority share in EPM.

The EPM Board “analyzed the proposal of [acting] Governor of Antioquia Luis Fernando Suárez Vélez to sell to EPM the 52.88% participation share of the [Antioquia] government and [its development subsidiary] IDEA in the Hidroituango Hydroelectric Society,” EPM announced in a press release.

“The Board concluded that it is important for [EPM] to continue with the working groups in charge of the issue, since it considered the possibility of EPM being able to buy said participation of great interest.

“However, the Board of Directors did not see the proposed form of payment [that is, the share swap] presented by the Antioquia government and instead proposed that payment through ordinary resources be studied within the negotiating tables,” EPM added.

In the meantime, “the department of Antioquia -- always close to the heart of [EPM] -- will see between 2021-2024 investments by EPM amounting to COP$10.4 trillion [US$2.68 billion], during one of the most challenging times for humanity due to the pandemic of Covid-19,” according to EPM.

“These [investment] resources -- included in the update of the EPM investment plan -- were approved by the Board of Directors in its session on July 27, 2021. The investments will allow the development of 132 infrastructure projects in Antioquia, providing services of [electric] energy, natural gas, aqueduct and sewerage, with quality, continuity, coverage and reliability.

“These investments in the Antioquia subregions are added to the transfers from the electricity sector that the company periodically gives to 52 Antioquia municipalities located in the Magdalena Medio, Northeast, North, West, East, Southwest and Valle de Aburrá, in addition to the Regional Autonomous Corporations: Corantioquia , Cornare and Corpourabá, in jurisdictions where EPM has hydropower generation reservoirs, including the river basins that supply them, or where powerhouses -- both hydraulic and thermal -- are installed.

“Between 2016 and 2020 these municipalities and corporations received COP$364 billion [US$94 million,” EPM added.


Medellin-based multinational supermarket/dry-goods retailer Almacenes Éxito announced July 27 that its second quarter (2Q) 2021 net profits soared 297%, to COP$50.7 billion (US$12.9 million), from COP$12.8 billion (US$3.2 million) in 2Q 2020.

The quadrupling of net income is credited to a “group diversification strategy with a higher contribution of complementary businesses, mainly royalties from TUYA [credit cards] and the development of real estate projects,” according to Éxito.

“Moreover, the company profited from a leaner financial structure and lower levels of non-recurring expenses from Covid-19. Results were partially offset by lower sales levels and the variation in income tax derived from the use of the statutory rate,” the company added.

Recurring earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) for 2Q 2021 rose 2.5%, to COP$306.5 billion (US$78 million), while revenues climbed a modest 0.2%, to COP$3.7 trillion (US$942 million), according to the company.

Corporate consolidated results include Colombia, Uruguay and Argentina store operations, as well as the discontinued operation of Transacciones Energéticas S.A.S., according Éxito.

Revenue growth “benefitted by the recovery of complementary businesses, solid omni-channel growth and a higher share on sale of innovative formats (up 20.2% in Colombia, up 43.9% in Uruguay, up 9.3% in Argentina),” according to Éxito.

Recurring EBITDA growth came from “higher contribution from TUYA [credit-card] royalties, the real estate business and increased productivity,” according to the company.

Consolidated capex for 2Q 2021 was COP$54.9 billion (US$14 million), 72% of which was “focused on innovation, omni-channel and digital transformation activities,” according to the company.

The Éxito “Wow” and “FreshMarket” stores “continued growing sales above non-converted stores. New model ‘Vecino’ [format] implemented in ‘Super Inter’ allowed a remarkable double-digit sales evolution,” the company added.

For its rest-of-2021 outlook, Éxito expects to spend US$110 million to US$130 million in capex, of which US$90 million to US$110 million would be inside Colombia.

Commenting on the 2Q 2021 results, Éxito CEO Carlos Mario Giraldo stated: “Despite mobility restrictions in LatAm and social disruption in Colombia, Grupo Éxito continued improving its performance during the second quarter of 2021.

“The company consistently developed innovative formats, its on-line and omni-channel businesses, while our ‘Puntos Colombia’ and complementary businesses -- mainly the real estate and the financial divisions -- gained traction.

“Today, innovation has proved its importance more than ever and consumer trends confirm the statement. Our clients look forward to combining virtual and in-store purchases and we have continued capitalizing from it by strengthening our retail platform,” he added.

Gross margin improved by 124 basis points (bps), to 26% in 2Q 2021, and rose 158 basis points in first-half 2021, to a margin of 26.3%. “Quarterly margins were boosted by the higher contribution of complementary businesses mainly in Colombia,” according to the company.

“Retail margin (when excluding other revenue) gained 60 bps versus the one posted in 2Q 2020, driven by contribution from the development of real estate projects in Colombia and from cost efficiencies across countries,” the company added.


Medellin-based multinational utilities giant EPM announced July 27 that its first half (1H) net income hit COP$1.9 trillion (US$483 million), more than double the COP$717 billion (US$192 million) profit in 1H 2020.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose to COP$3.5 trillion (US$890 million), up from COP$2.8 trillion (US$752 million) in 1H 2020, while EBITDA margin hit 30% and net profit margin came-in at 16%, according to the company.

Gross revenues in 1H 2021 rose 26% year-on-year, to COP$11.7 trillion (US$2.97 billion), according to the company.

So far this year, EPM Group has invested COP$1.7 trillion (US$432 million) in infrastructure projects, of which COP$627 billion (US$160 million) correspond to the Hidroituango hydroelectric project in Antioquia.

Commenting on the results, EPM general manager Jorge Andrés Carrillo Cardoso stated: “These positive figures were achieved in part thanks to the community’s commitment to paying their bills for the public services, plus the improvement in operations due to the greater generation of energy from our hydropower plants -- which had high water inputs -- and also to higher energy sales.”

As of June 30, 2021, Grupo EPM total assets had grown 2% year-on-year, to COP$65.3 trillion (US$16.6 billion), while liabilities rose 4%, to COP$38.1 trillion (US$9.7 billion). The debt-to-EBITDA indicator for EPM Group closed at 4.0 in 1H 2021, compared to 3.9 for 1H 2020, the company added.


A new report from the U.S. State Department finds that Colombia offers relatively favorable conditions for foreign direct investment (FDI) here – even though some regulatory areas still need updating or improvements.

The new U.S. report – just one of dozens analyzing the relative strengths/weaknesses for FDI in 170 nations globally – notes that Colombia stands above most nations thanks to Free Trade Agreements with the U.S., Europe, Canada, Israel and many other countries, along with regulatory frameworks “that give stability to business,” as noted in a subsequent analysis from the Colombian-American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham-Colombia).

However, “there are pending issues to overcome in matters of intellectual property and non-tariff barriers for businesses,” AmCham cautioned.

The report “indicates that, based on the World Bank's Doing Business, in the [Latin America] region only Chile and Mexico surpass Colombia in the conditions for foreign investment,”| AmCham notes.

What’s more, “between 2018 and 2019, the flow of foreign investment to Colombia increased by 25.6%, of which about a third in was allocated to the extractive sectors [oil-and-gas, mining] and another 21% to professional services and finance in 2019.”

“Historically, the United States has been the main foreign investor in Colombia,” added María Claudia Lacouture, AmCham-Colombia executive director.

“There are currently about 450 U.S. companies in Colombia that generate just over 100,000 direct and indirect jobs. The State Department document contributes to the generation of confidence so that the presence of these companies in the country increases,” she added.

“The report highlights the improvement of security in metropolitan areas, the existence of a market of 50 million people and an abundance of natural resources along with a growing, educated middle class,” AmCham notes.

“Legal and regulatory systems in Colombia are consistent with international standards, as well as a broad legal framework for companies and FDI,” the group added.

The full U.S. State Department report on Colombia is available here: https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-investment-climate-statements/colombia.


Colombia President Ivan Duque announced this morning (July 23) that the U.S. government is shipping yet another 3.5 million doses of free Covid-19 vaccine to Colombia on Sunday, July 25 -- on top of 2.5 million doses earlier donated by the U.S. to Colombia last month.

This makes the U.S. government by far the biggest donor to Colombia in Covid-19 humanitarian aid.

According to the U.S Embassy in Bogota, the 6 million Covid-19 doses alone are worth US$52.5 million, while other forms of aid to Colombia this year to help confront the Covid crisis now total US$122.7 million.

To date, Colombia is the biggest single beneficiary of Covid-19 relief aid from the U.S. in the entire Latin American region, according to the Embassy.

Commenting on the new batch of 3.5 million Moderna vaccines coming to Colombia, President Duque stated: “We thank this gesture of solidarity by U.S. President Joe Biden with the Colombian people, which ratifies the strong relations between our countries.”

Meanwhile, Colombia just opened Covid-19 vaccinations to all residents 30-to-34-years-old, having earlier launched massive vaccination campaigns for various cohorts among those 35-years-and-older.

With Colombia already having surpassed more than 24 million vaccinations as of July 21 -- and 10 days of continuing vaccinations coming during the remainder of July -- the nation likely will have far surpassed its goal of having at least 25 million vaccinations by end-July, probably well in excess of 26 million.

While Colombia today doesn’t suffer so much from the sort of ignorant, hysterical, selfish,and politically bigoted anti-vaccine ideology as pushed by right-wing extremists in the U.S. – a phenomenon that ironically is infecting and killing thousands of people from the latest Covid-19 variation -- too many people here nevertheless have been lazy about getting their shots, as Health Ministry promotion director Gerson Bermont announced earlier this month.

As a result, only about 60% of people here between 50 to 59 years old here so far have been vaccinated, Bermont lamented.

While 20% of the entire Colombia population so far has been totally immunized, a lot of work remains to ensure that the 35 million of Colombia’s most-vulnerable populations are fully immunized by December 2021, he added.

As of July 20, 92.4% of those 80 years and older here have been vaccinated, along with 83% of people 75 to 79 years old, he said.

Another 82% of those between 70 to 74, plus 77.4% of those between 65 to 69, have been vaccinated, while 72.9% of those 60 to 64 also have been vaccinated, he added.


Medellin-based textile giant Coltejer revealed in separate July 15 and July 17 filings with Colombia’s Superfinanciera corporate oversight agency that it has decided to suspend production of non-woven fibers and begin a process to “reinvent” its whole business model.

“Taking into account the impact that the company has suffered due to issues related to [below-cost textiles and clothing] smuggling, the [Covid-19] pandemic and recent [violent ‘Comite del Paro’ strikes and road blockades] in the country, as of this date, the productive operation of the ‘non-wovens’ line is suspended,” according to Coltejer.

“In addition to the difficulty presented, we assume the situation as a challenge that allows us to transform the business and reinvent ourselves in response to the needs of the current market.

“The company is making every effort to resume its economic activity as soon as possible, of which notice will be given in a timely manner,” the company added.

In a follow-up filing July 17 with Superfinanciera, Coltejer revealed that shuttering the non-woven fibers production line will cut its monthly corporate-wide gross income by about COP$1 billion (US$262,000), “equivalent to 49% of current income.” Monthly profit losses from the non-woven-fibers shutdown would amount to COP$600 million (US$157,000), “equivalent to 19% of sales,” according to the company.

Earlier this year, Coltejer revealed it had suffered a full-year 2020 net loss of COP$94.6 billion (US$26.8 million), worse than its net loss of COP$24.9 billion (US$7 million) in 2019 (see Medellin Herald February 11, 2021).

Sales in 2020 also dropped to COP$74.8 billion (US$21 million), down from COP$141.9 billion (US$40 million) in 2019.

Coltejer also announced late last year (see Medellin Herald December 18, 2020) that it decided to abandon its pioneering textile factory in the southern Medellin suburb of Itagui, shifting its remaining operations to Rionegro, Antioquia -- and selling the Itagui properties.

In line with that shift to Rionegro, Coltejer announced today that it signed a commercial administration trust agreement with Credicorp Capital Fiduciaria SA as part of its Itagui property sale contract with Actual Corp Colombia SAS and Constructora Capital Medellín SAS. Coltejer simultaneously obtained a new loan from affiliate Coltejer Comercial SAS totaling COP$300 million (US$78,600), the company added.


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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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