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Medellin-based real-estate developer Valores Simesa on February 7 reported an after-tax profit of COP$21.1 billion (US$6.1 million) for full-year 2019 -- and simultaneously revealed in a filing with Colombia’s Superfinanciera agency a proposed COP$20 billion (US$5.8 million) stock buyback.

Simesa is the developer of the giant “Ciudad del Rio” residential, commercial and office-building project on the site of the former Siderurgica Simesa iron/steel mill in Medellin.

According to the company’s most recent annual report, two-thirds of Simesa’s stock is held by the investment banking division of Medellin-based Bancolombia.

Simesa’s board of directors wil put the stock-buyback proposal to a vote at the anual stockholders meeting March 11 in the Medellin Museum of Modern Art (MAMM), located in Ciudad del Rio.


Medellin-based textiles and waste-plastics recycling specialist Enka Colombia revealed in a February 6 filing with Colombia’s Superfinanciera oversight agency that its full-year 2019 net profits jumped 253% year-on-year, to COP$15 billion (US$4.4 million).

“In addition to good operating results, the net result was favored by lower financial expense due to the reduction in indebtedness, the better impact due to exchange differences and a lower tax burden as a result of the [2019 Colombia tax-reform] financing law,” according to Enka.

Operating revenues came-in at COP$402 billion (US$118 million), with exports accounting for 45% of sales.

“Brazil, the United States and Canada stand out as the main destinations because of our focus on added value and growth potential,” according to Enka.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 13% year-on-year, to COP$35.8 billion (US$10.5 million), while EBITDA margin on sales improved from 7.7% in 2018 to 8.9% in 2019 – “the best result in the company's recent history,” according to Enka.

“The main factors for the good operational result were the devaluation of the peso [against the U.S. dollar], the greater collection of plastic bottles [which Enka converts into synthetic fibers] and the diversification of markets.”

Meanwhile, Enka’s board of directors will propose to its March 12 shareholders meeting that 2019 profits would be redirected to absorb losses from previous years.


Foreign investment promotion agency ProColombia announced February 6 the upcoming launch of its annual “Business Matchmaking Forum” at Medellin’s Plaza Mayor convention center -- expected to attract more than 3,000 entrepreneurs along with hundreds of international corporate buyers.

The event (see: https://www.macrorruedasprocolombia.co/macrorrueda80/), “is one of ProColombia’ s most relevant promotional activities,” said ProColombia President Flavia Santoro.

“International buyers from all over the world will have the opportunity to see a great sampling of Colombia’s export offerings in the agribusiness, technology, manufacture and apparel sectors. North American companies, which can take advantage of the free trade agreement with Colombia, will find a competitive offer of goods and services in our country,” Santoro added.

Five industrial/commercial sectors are represented.

For the ag sector, offerings include aquaculture and fisheries, beef and pork, fruits and vegetables, and flowers.

The apparel sector will feature leather goods, footwear, bathing suits, undergarments and other types of clothing.

For the “industry 4.0” (high-tech) sector, there will be digital and information tech services as well as software development services.

The chemical, industrial and consumer-goods sector will feature cosmetics, packaging and containers, pharmaceutical products and hospital equipment.

Finally, the manufacturing sector will include construction materials, auto parts, furniture, wood and more.

As for buyers, “among those expected to attend are large retail chains, supermarkets, department stores, state companies and distributors, as well as recognized international marketers who sell directly to the final consumer,” including e-commerce vendors, according to ProColombia.

Last year’s version of the Matchmaking Forum generated more than 10,000 business meetings, “which led to tangible business contacts worth US$400 million, 28% more than in 2018,” according to ProColombia

During the 2019 event, 937 buyers from 52 countries “had the opportunity to meet Colombian talent, represented by 2,097 entrepreneurs from 25 Colombian departments,” according to the agency.


Colombia’s giant national technical/technological training institute SENA (Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje) announced February 4 a COP$20 billion (US$6 million) investment in a new training-center campus in La Ceja, Antioquia -- serving multiple municipalities in Medellin’s “oriente” region.

According to the joint announcement by La Ceja Mayor Nelson Carmona Lopera and SENA director Carlos Mario Estrada, the new training center will debut in 2021, following construction work that begins in mid-2020, on a 13,200-square-meters lot donated by SENA.

The new center will provide “free, innovative and quality higher education,” focusing upon technical and technological training, according to SENA’s Estrada.

The investment “fulfills the dream of generating projects for the benefit of higher education as the transforming engine of society, while contributing to expand employment and development alternatives for the locality and region,” according to the Mayor’s press statement.

“Our [training center] headquarters will offer the opportunity to access free technical and technological education of relevance to the region and is very close to the [public bus] transport terminal,” Mayor Carmona said.

The center “will have programs that will contribute to the ‘orange’ [creative, higher-tech] economy, and will offer development [courses] for entrepreneurship, science and innovation,” he added.

During 2019, SENA trained more than 8.8 million apprentices through the 117 training centers in all 33 regional departments and 1,100 municipalities in Colombia.

In order to boost chances for post-training employment, SENA has established alliances with world-leading technology companies including Amazon Web Services, Siemens, Mnemo Colombia SAS, Bosch Rexroth, Festo, Huawei, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, LG, Samsung and others, focusing upon “cybersecurity, cloud computing, big data, block chain, internet of things, application development and software,” according to the institute.

In addition, the SENA-administered Public Employment Agency (PEA) last year enrolled another 25,546 companies posting job vacancies, generating 452,531 placements, helping to reduce Colombia’s national unemployment rates -- currently more than 10% thanks in part to more than 2 million impoverished Venezuelans that have fled that socialist dictatorship in the last four years.

The record-breaking job placements came about thanks in part to 266 job-fair events by PEA mobile offices in 134 municipalities of the country, the development of 401 employment micro-apprenticeships, and 159 international job-posting campaigns offering 1,269 vacancies for "Colombians interested in working in countries such as Canada, Spain, the United States, France, Mexico, Ecuador, Malta and Romania,” according to SENA.

Meanwhile, through its “Entrepreneurship Fund,” SENA last year loaned COP$100 billion (US$29 million) in seed capital for 801 new small-business initiatives, generating 4,600 new jobs in the “formal” (tax-paying, benefits-generating) sector.

On another notable front, the University of Texas at San Antonio has just certified the 33 SENA regional educational institutes as meeting U.S. Small Business Development Center (SBDC) standards – the first such certification in all Latin America.


Medellin-based textile giant Coltejer on January 29 revealed in a filing with Colombia’s corporate oversight agency Superfinanciera that it suffered a full-year 2019 net loss of COP$24.9 billion (US$7.2 million), a small improvement over the COP$28.9 billion (US$8.5 million) net loss in 2018.

Sales also dipped slightly, to COP$141.9 billion (US$41.7 million ) in 2019 versus COP$144 billion (US$42 million) in 2018, while total corporate-wide income dipped to COP$172 billion (US$50 million) versus COP$176 billion (US$51.7 million) in 2018.

However, operating income improved to COP$13 billion (US$3.8 million) compared to COP$6.8 billion (US$2 million ) in 2018.

Coltejer and other major textile producers in Colombia have been suffering losses mainly because of contraband textile and clothing imports, which Colombian police recently estimated at US$3 billion last year.

In a related note, Coltejer stated that its annual shareholders meeting will be held February 20, 2020, at company headquarters.


Switzerland-based global cement/concrete giant LafargeHolcim announced January 28 that it aims to invest US$10 million in a new information-technology research center next year for all the Americas at the Ruta N technology incubation center in Medellin.

According to the official press bulletin from the Medellin Mayor’s office, the new research center will employ 250 people initially and eventually expand to more than 1,000.

“This is the way forward for Medellín to become a valley of software,” boasted Mayor Daniel Quintero Calle.

Holcim already employs 864 people in Medellin at its shared services center. Company technology development here in recent years has enabled Holcim “to automate some processes and launch around 10 software robots,” according to the press bulletin.

The new “Americas Digital Center” at Ruta N will serve “the entire American continent,” according to the bulletin, replacing research centers in Brazil and Canada.

LafargeHolcim operates in 80 countries worldwide and employs more than 75,000.


Medellin-based Inexmoda – the international trade group for textiles and clothing – announced January 23 at the conclusion of the 32nd annual “Colombiatex” trade show here that anticipated sales deals soared to US$753 million -- up drastically from US$480 million last year.

The huge jump came even despite an anti-government protest march in Medellin (and also in Bogota), which blocked a few streets -- but otherwise had no impact on traffic through the vast Plaza Mayor convention center here.

In total, 546 exhibitors from 21 countries showed off their technologies, products and environmental sustainability efforts -- 328 of which came from Colombia. Of those, 46% were from Antioquia , 44% from Cundinamarca and 6% from Valle del Cauca, according to Inexmoda.

“The commercial exhibition was visited by 13,682 buyers, of which 12,587 were Colombians from regions including Antioquia (48%), Cundinamarca (20%) and Valle del Cauca (5%). In addition, 1,542 international buyers visited the event from countries including Ecuador (21%), Peru (17%) and Mexico (13%), among others,” according to the trade group.

The show also featured 114 brands touting “100% Colombian” products and services, including 18 innovative graphic designers in a special “Graphic Market” section.

Businesses in the city of Medellin nabbed another US$9.4 million in hotel, transport and restaurant sales, while hotel occupancy soared to 91% during the three-day show.

“According to studies by the research firm Invamer, business expectations are US$753 million, of which 56% materialized during the event and 44% could be achieved during the year following the event. The categories that activated these business deal were textiles (43%), machinery (12%), chemical inputs (11%), complete package (8%) and textile fibers (6%),” according to Inexmoda.

“There was an increase in the average [sales deal] ticket of 71%, which means an increase in the intention to purchase at Colombiatex 2020," the group added.

The exhibitors jammed every available corner of the 11,000 square meters available at Plaza Mayor, with India, Brazil, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Turkey, Pakistan and the USA predominating among the internationals.

Environmental sustainability was a key theme at this year’s edition, with many companies touting initiatives to slash water consumption, reduce waste, recycle fabrics, convert waste plastics to fabrics, and to employ biodegradable chemicals.

“Environmental sustainability is not an option for organizations, it is an obligation,” as Inexmoda CEO Carlos Eduardo Botero stated at the closing press conference. “We are entering an era where the economic sustainability of companies will depend on their environmental sustainability,” Botero added.

A related “trends forum” series of lectures here focused on spring-summer 2020 fashions, attracting some 2,000 attendees.

Beyond the trade-show and “trends-forum” stages, Colombiatex also featured 29 speakers on longer-term fashion, cultural, market and trading tendencies affecting the textile and clothing industries, in collaboration with Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (UPB). An estimated 7,000 persons attended those lectures either in-person at the adjacent Teatro Metropolitano or via internet streaming, according to Inexmoda.

In one such presentation, Coronel Oscar Cortes, sub-director of Colombia’s National Tax and Customs Police, revealed that an estimated US$3 billion worth of contraband textiles, clothes and footwear entered Colombia last year -- with a huge negative impact on domestic textile producers.

“Corruption is always involved in contraband,” Cortes explained, adding that National Police have arrested many corrupt customs officials involved in such scams.

Despite a discouraging amount of illegal imports, Colombia’s National Tax and Customs Police are nevertheless making headway against contraband, seizing 11.9 million clothing items last year, up 12% year-on-year, he revealed.

Customs Police also intercepted 1.8 million square meters of textiles -- a 353% increase year-on-year. Another 933,000 pairs of contraband shoes were seized, up 28% year-on-year, he said.

Nearly all of this contraband arrives in shipping containers. Although Colombia inspects about 10% of these containers -- and has arrested many members of criminal groups involved in such trafficking -- more efforts are required to slash contraband volume, he conceded.

Narcotraffickers are often involved in such contraband, by laundering  U.S. dollars and Euros (which they obtain from cocaine exports) through China in exchange for contraband clothing, which then turns into “laundered” Colombian pesos upon sales in Colombia, he explained.

One effort to cut such contraband is the recent creation of “legal commercial zones” (or “ZCLs” in Spanish initials), mainly in Medellin, Bogota and Cali, where 551 clothing retailers are already registered and certified for the program, he added.


Colombia’s national government is about to unveil a new, COP$1.4 trillion (US$416 million) financing plan to ensure completion of the “phase two” section of highway connecting Santa Fe de Antioquia to the under-construction “Toyo” tunnel -- both of which will link Medellin westward to new and existing Atlantic freight ports as part of the “Mar 1” and “Mar 2” highways.

In a January 22 press conference, Colombia highway agency (Invias) director Juan Esteban Gil Chavarria, Antioquia Governor Anibal Gaviria Correa and Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero jointly announced the upcoming financing deal for the 19-kilometers-long “phase two” highway (see blue line in map, above) -- details of which would be announced in the next two weeks.

Once completed, the "Mar 1" and "Mar 2" highways would drastically cut freight transit times between Medellin and the Atlantic, to around 4.5 hours.

“Phase one” of the 9.8-kilometers-long Toyo tunnel (see red line in map, above) -- recently renamed "Tunel Guillermo Gaviria Echeverri," honoring the father of former Antioquia Gov. Guillermo Gaviria Correa, murdered in 2002 by communist FARC terrorists following a peace march – is now due for opening in 2023, a year ahead of schedule, Gov. Anibal Gaviria revealed.

“The national government through Invias and ANI [the national infrastructure agency] has pledged to contribute the COP$1.4 trillion [US$416 million] necessary for the construction of 'phase two' of the Toyo Tunnel between Santa Fe de Antioquia and the eastern access to the Guillermo Gaviria Echeverri Tunnel,” Gaviria further explained.

It’s conceivable that future highway toll revenues from the under-construction “Mar 1” highway between Medellin and Santa Fe de Antioquia might be used to support the new financing package for "phase two," Invias director Gil added.

A video (in Spanish) of the joint press conference is available here: https://www.facebook.com/GobAntioquia/videos/493751238224759/

 


The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) “Oro Legal” (Legal Gold) project in Antioquia announced January 23 that between the September 2016 launch of the project and October 2019, dozens of formerly artisanal miners in the project produced 2.9 tons of gold worth more than US$112 million.

“The results of gold sales and the payment of income taxes, social security and royalties to the state by small and medium-sized ‘mining production units (‘UPM’ in Spanish initials) of Antioquia and Chocó -- accompanied by the Legal Gold Program of USAID -- are demonstrating that formalization is a good business for both small and medium-sized miners and for the country,” according to USAID.

These formerly illegal miners paid US$8 million (COP$26 billion) in taxes to the state, helping Antioquia fund numerous programs that benefit the citizenry.

“Additionally, with the transition to legality, the use of 40.4 tons of mercury was avoided in the activities of [purifying] the mineral -- and a dynamic of modernization of exploitation processes was generated through compliance with high technical, environmental and business standards,” according to USAID.

“Another benefit offered by formalization processes is the possibility of exporting gold. This is the case of the UPM Tenerife, Río Rayo, Puerto Escondido and La Troja [miners], which are one step away from becoming the first of the Lower Cauca Antioqueño producers to export gold to Switzerland with the ‘Responsible Gold’ seal.

“This [certification] will allow them to receive a better price for the gold produced and an additional prize of US$ 1,000 per kilo, which they can invest in environmental and social projects,” USAID added.


Despite isolated acts of vandalism in Medellin by small groups of extreme left-wingers who attacked a few municipal bus stations, police stations, bank offices and a hotel during a January 21 protest march here, Medellin mainly demonstrated once again that peaceful protest is respected by nearly all its citizens.

Contrast that to Bogota where left-wing extremists once again viciously attacked and injured police, as shown in this video taken by witnesses: https://www.facebook.com/GuardianesdeAntioquiaMedellin1/videos/863143347459656/UzpfSTEwMDA0MDQzNDEzMTYzOTpWSzoyNDEwODMzODIyMzU0ODEy/

In all, six policemen were injured by “encapuchados” (hooded left-wing extremists) in Bogota – down in number from the dozens of police injured and hospitalized during protest marches last November, where three other persons died as a result of police shooting back at “encapuchados” (hooded extremists) who were throwing bombs and rocks, gang-beating anti-riot police and attempting to burn and destroy private businesses and public facilities.

Ironically, newly elected Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez – who had campaigned on a populist promise to block the use of the “ESMAD” anti-riot police – embarrassingly conceded that she likewise had to deploy these troops to stop senseless violence and road-blockings by extremist protesters.

New Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero – who similarly had criticized ESMAD in his election campaign – likewise deployed anti-riot police when violent actors began attacking buildings and bus stations, as well as threatening peaceful citizens in Medellin.

Meanwhile, Colombia President Ivan Duque on January 21 once again publicly endorsed the constitutional right of Colombian citizens to organize and carry-out peaceful protest marches. He also cited the new and continuing dialogs between his government and proactive citizen delegates who are pushing further reforms to public education, the national health system, cultural initiatives, pensions and work rules -- all by democratic means rather than by violence.

However, the politically radical “Comite Nacional de Paro” (the national protest-march organizers) rejected President Duque’s invitation to participate in the new talks, instead pushing protest actions and anti-democratic, non-negotiable demands, which inevitably led to more violence and extremist hatred.

This group published a list of 104 demands including a 100% nationalization of the partly-privatized Ecopetrol oil company (which would require billions of dollars of new government expenses in already heavily debt-ridden Colombia); conversion of relatively efficient private-sector services such as telecom and internet to state ownership; a new law that would ban oil production via “fracking” (such a ban ironically would guarantee an accelerated demise of Ecopetrol and all its union jobs as conventional oil is rapidly disappearing in Colombia); a dismantling of anti-riot police (ensuring even more violence by extremists); and a politically biased dismantling of criminal “paramilitary” groups (but not any dismantling of the extreme left wing narco-terrorist ELN group, which instead would be favored by unilateral “peace” talks -- while ignoring continual ELN violence).

The protest group also demands that Colombia ban spraying of herbicides that kill the coca plant -- the backbone for cocaine narco-trafficking by criminal extremist groups including ELN.

Ironically, Colombia has seen a huge increase in coca and cocaine production – triggering the inevitable rise in violence by narco-gangster groups including ex-FARC and ELN -- as a result of a decision by the former President Santos administration to concede to demands by these criminal groups to ban the use of aerial spraying.

However, President Duque is pushing for a gradual return of such spraying -- hence infuriating the extreme left and other criminal groups here.


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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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