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EPM Full-Year 2020 Profits Grow 19% Over 2019

Wednesday, 24 March 2021 08:00 Written by

Medellin-based multinational utilities giant EPM announced March 23 that its full-year 2020 profits jumped 19% year-on-year, to COP$3.7 trillion (US$1.02 billion).

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) came-in at COP$5.8 trillion (US$1.6 billion) with an EBITDA margin of 29%, “slightly below the level of 2019, caused by the increase in operational costs related to the activities carried out to mitigate the pandemic,” according to EPM Acting General Manager Mónica Ruiz Arbeláez.

EPM Group revenues rose 8% year-on-year, to COP$19.8 trillion (US$5.47 billion), with the electric power business accounting for 87% of the total.

During 2020, EPM group invested COP$3.1 trillion (US$856 million) in infrastructure, according to the company.

Profit transfers to the city of Medellin – its sole shareholder – will total COP$1.4 trillion (US$387 million) this year, according to the company.

The impressive growth in 2020 profit and revenue came despite a COP$750 billion (US$270 million) cost hit from the Covid-19 crisis, EPM added.

“During the pandemic and the strictest days of confinement, EPM implemented the special measures decreed by the national government and added its own initiatives within the legal framework that governs it to accompany citizens in one of the most complex times,” according to EPM.

Those actions included reconnections of water, energy and gas services at no cost for disconnected users; zero-cost financing for new water and energy services; a freeze on finance fees for existing services provided; and discounts for timely payment of public services, according to the company.

Beyond the COP$1.5 trillion (US$387 million) profit transfer to the city of Medellín, EPM also paid COP$1.5 trillion (US$414 million) to various providers of goods and services during 2020, while another COP$221 billion (US$61 million) went to support local communities and environmental projects, the company added.

At year-end 2020, EPM saw its total asset values rise 16%, to COP$63.8 trillion (US$17.6 billion), while liabilities rose 19%, to COP$36.7 trillion (US$10.1 billion). Equity now stands at COP$27.1 trillion (US$7.5 billion), up 12% over 2019. The debt-to-EBITDA indicator rose to 4.37 in 2020, up from 3.49 in 2019, the company added.


Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura (ANI, Colombia’s infrastructure agency) revealed today (March 19) that the new Pacifico 1, 2 and 3 highways linking Medellin southwestward toward the Pacific port of Buenaventura will open for traffic in 2022 -- ahead of schedule.

“Next year, the three Pacific highways will be in the service of a whole country,” ANI President Manuel Felipe Gutierrez revealed today via his Twitter account.

“With 62% progress in the Pacifico 1 project, followed by 99% in Pacifico 2 and 83% in Pacifico 3, we continue to serve Colombians” with crucial highway projects that will boost Medellin’s competitiveness by dramatically slashing freight-traffic times and costs.

The Pacifico 1 highway between Medellin’s southern suburbs and the Cauca River town of Bolombolo is making eye-popping strides along a steep mountainside route, from only 8% completion in August 2018 to 62.4% today, according to ANI.

This project includes twin highway tunnels at Amagá (3.6-kilometers-long, now 78% complete) and Sinifaná (1.4-kilometers-long, nearly complete), the latter just on the outskirts of Bolombolo.

Pacifico 1 also includes the construction of 59 new bridges along the entire route as well as three new interchanges at Sinifaná, Titiribí and Camilo C. The new route connects Pacifico 1 to Pacifico 2 via new Cauca River bridges (see photo, above), which in turn are directly tied to the new, twin “Mulatos” tunnels, each 2.5-kilometers in length.

“Pacifico 2 is already at 99.13% completion and it will be one of the first '4G' [fourth-generation highway] projects to finish its construction phase to enter 100% into operation” this year, according to ANI.

Pacifico 2 also includes 40 other bridges, 37 kilometers of new four-lane, divided highway, three kilometers of two-lane highway and rehabilitation of 54 kilometers of existing highway, according to ANI.

Meanwhile, Pacífico 3 – now at 86.82% completion –"connects 18 municipalities in the departments of Antioquia, Caldas and Risaralda through 146 kilometers of highway that include the construction of two tunnels: the Irra tunnel, which has already been put into operation, and the Tesalia tunnel,” according to ANI.

The Tesalia tunnel is 92% complete and will open before year-end 2021, according to ANI.

Meanwhile, the Pacifico 3 sections between La Manuela-Tres Puertas-Irra are now 97.7% complete, including 31 kilometers of highway upgrades and construction of additional lanes.

Toyo Tunnel Ahead of Schedule

Meanwhile, the Antioquia departmental government announced March 18 that the 9.73-kilometers-long “Toyo” tunnel (aka "Tunel Guillermo Gaviria Echeverri") is now at 50% excavation -- more than three months ahead of schedule.

The Toyo tunnel will link the new “Mar 1” and “Mar 2” highways westward from Medellin to new and existing Atlantic freight ports, greatly reducing freight shipping times and costs.

At 4,934 meters already excavated (in each of two parallel tunnels), drillers are advancing at nearly 10 linear meters per day, according to the government. The Toyo project also includes several connecting viaducts, shorter tunnels and open-to-sky sections.

Thanks to steady and relatively rapid progress, “it is expected that the tunnel will be completely drilled in 2022 and the project will be ready in 2023,” according to the Antioquia government.

Meanwhile, the connecting “section 2” of the “Mar 1” highway project westward from Santa Fé de Antioquia to Cañasgordas just got its first of two promised funding disbursements (totaling COP$1.4 trillion/US$394 million) from Colombian highway agency Invias, the government revealed March 18.

‘Vias del Nus’ Progress Accelerates

On yet another front, ANI announced March 19 that the new “Vias del Nus” four-lane divided highway connecting Medellin northward to existing and new highways and northern Atlantic ports -- and including a new bridge over the Magdalena River -- is now at 84% completion.

This project, which had only made 1.8% progress by 2018, is now accelerating rapidly – including the crucial “La Quiebra” twin tunnels (85% complete), which will remove an historic bottleneck between Medellin and highway connections to Cartagena, Barranquilla and Santa Marta.


Colombia President Ivan Duque and Commerce Minister José Manuel Restrepo jointly announced March 15 in a nationally televised address that Colombia has just expanded and improved investment opportunities for new and existing free-trade zones.

“Through Decree 278 of March 15, 2021, the competitiveness of this investment promotion instrument in the country will be improved,” according to a Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MinCIT) press bulletin accompanying the announcement.

Among the benefits in the new decree: a 15% reduction in up-front-costs for those investing in such zones.

In all Colombia, Antioquia is the nation's single biggest exporter, hence the new rule would open even more opportunities for foreign and domestic investors.

According to Minister Restrepo, “with this structural advance in the regime, the government contributes to positioning the country at the forefront in the hemisphere for attracting investment, by having a modern instrument that today includes 120 free-trade zones.”

Of those 120, 41 are permanent zones and 79 are “special” zones, of which the term limits have have been extended for five years.

To date, Colombia’s free-trade zone scheme has generated more than 136,000 jobs and attracted COP$48 trillion (US$13.5 billion) in investments in the last 13 years.

The new rules “enable the recognition of intangible assets -- in accordance with the current intellectual property regime -- as part of investment commitments, up to 20% of the new investment,” according to the Ministry.

“Electronic commerce is also allowed in free zones for users of goods and services, through the modality of postal traffic and urgent shipments.

“For new service projects, the possibility of reducing investment commitments is established if exports are made -- effectively channeled through the exchange market each year.

“Additionally, special permanent free zones for services are enabled to become permanent free zones, with the aim of qualifying users who provide services -- mainly for export -- such as science, technology, innovation, culture and knowledge, among others.

“Another novelty is regional development, since the minimum area requirement of 20 hectares is eliminated for the new permanent free zones dedicated exclusively to the provision of services in cities and municipalities with less-than-1-million inhabitants.

“Meanwhile, for new free zone projects located in municipalities with high poverty rates, the investment commitment is reduced by up to 30%. This possibility also applies to the request for the extension of existing free zones in municipalities with this characteristic,” the Ministry added.

Paperwork requirements for free-trade zone investment also is being slashed, to 24 documents (from 57 previously), while processing time is cut to six months, from 18 months previously.

“Additionally, the possibility was opened for the request of new free zones in all types of agro-industrial activities, as well as for airport and rail concessions, the latter subject to regulation,” according to the Ministry.

In addition, “the maximum term for the extension of both permanent and ‘special permanent’ free zones is equalized to 30 years, while free trade zones are allowed to add areas not adjacent to the originally declared space -- provided that said areas are found in the same municipality or in neighboring municipalities within the same customs jurisdiction,” according to the Ministry.

The new scheme “also opens the possibility for existing free zones to request the expansion of the economic activities for which their declaration was authorized,” the Ministry added.


Colombia Health Minister Fernando Ruiz revealed this morning (March 15) that more than 1 million people nationally will have received their first shot of Covid-19 vaccine this week, with 1.8 million likely by end-March.

As of March 13, 782,301 Colombians had gotten a Covid-19 shot since the vaccination campaign started 25 days ago, of which 108,456 were in Antioquia – most of those (more than 70,000), in the Medellin metro area.

“We have a vaccination rate that already shows consistent and well distributed numbers,” Minister Ruiz stated in a press release.

By the end of this March, some 85% of the “phase one” priority group – front-line health workers and those over 80 years of age – are expected to be vaccinated, he said.

With about 4,500 trained vaccinators now giving an average of 50 to 80 shots per day (depending upon region), that means Colombia is now averaging 80,000 shots per day.

“But next month [April] where we will have a much larger stock of vaccines, from 5 million to 8 million vaccines, most likely closer to the 8 million, we will be addressing the entire population of those over 60 years of age, which is more than 7 million people. We hope that this vaccination [campaign] will approach the 200,000 vaccinations per day,” Ruiz added.

While pharmaceutical companies have confirmed their plans to deliver millions of vaccines to Colombia next month, the exact days are still uncertain, he cautioned.

“We do not have much control over the issue [of exact arrival days]; hopefully we can have them in time” to meet the “phase two” goal of vaccinating another 7 million people in April, Ruiz added.


Colombia's border control agency Migracion Colombia announced March 13 that it's still awaiting an official order from the Health Ministry that would enable immediate cancellation of the existing Covid-19 PCR test mandate for all international air passenger arrivals to Colombia.

Until Migracion Colombia receives that order, arriving passengers still must pass a PCR test within 96 hours of boarding a flight to Colombia, or else endure a 14-day quarantine upon arrival here. A third option: Get a PCR test here while in quarantine and then await an all-clear test result, usually in 24 to 48 hours, enabling escape from quarantine.

Earlier, a Cundinamarca Administrative Tribunal on March 9 overturned a lower-court order that had forced Colombia’s Ministry of Health to require all air passengers to Colombia to show proof of passing a PCR test against Covid-19 infection.

Air travelers to Colombia have been required to pass a PCR test within 96 hours of boarding an international flight to Colombia since January 2021.

But the Cundinamarca appeals court just revoked that regulation, finding that the original order by the 11th District Court in Bogota mandating PCR tests for international arrivals is unconstitutional.

In the Ministry of Health’s summary of the new ruling, the appeals court found that “the plaintiff did not prove that one or some of his fundamental rights had been violated or threatened” by allowing passengers to enter Colombia without first passing a PCR test.

In addition, the plaintiff “did not prove legitimacy to act in assuming the rights of others, that is, to request constitutional protection in favor of the Colombian population.”

The Health Ministry had appealed the original decision to the Cundinamarca appeals court, arguing that passengers lacking a PCR test in origin countries actually aren’t any more dangerous for spreading disease than people already here, since Covid-19 is now ubiquitous.

Mask wearing, social distancing, work/public-space protocols, and vaccinations instead are the key factors to thwart Covid-19 infections, the Ministry adds.


Colombia Health Minister Fernando Ruiz announced March 10 that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer just confirmed that Colombia will get another 2.2 million doses of its highly effective Covid-19-prevention vaccines next month (April 2021).

This upcoming delivery comes on top of the nearly 1.5 million Sinovac doses received here last weekend -- supplementing an earlier delivery of some 200,000 more Sinovac vaccines -- plus 317,000 doses of Pfizer doses already delivered here.

As a result, Colombia will have received at least 4.3 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines in the coming days, once including the 2.2 million doses already delivered here.

In parallel, Colombia seems on-target to achieve its initial goal of 1 million persons vaccinated by March 20, according to President Ivan Duque.

To date, Colombia already has signed agreements with several pharmaceutical companies for delivery of roughly 65 million Covid-19 doses over the coming months, mainly from Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson (Janssen), Moderna, Sinovac and AstraZeneca.

However, to reach its year-end goal of getting 37 million people vaccinated, Colombia needs to more-than-triple its current rate of about 1 million vaccinations per month, Ministry data indicate.

As of March 10, only 403,000 people had been vaccinated here since the campaign began on February 17, according to the Health Ministry.

Encouragingly, shot rates are ramping up since the first days of the vaccination campaign, now at around 62,000 persons daily. But that rate needs to hit more than 100,000 persons daily to meet the 37-million-persons target.

Data-entry delays from various health-care providers and local/departmental agencies partly might explain the relatively slow rate of reported daily vaccinations, Health Minister Ruiz stated in a March 10 bulletin.

For example: Antioquia had received 185,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines as of March 9, but had only reported 46,000 actual vaccinations, or just 25% of its total dose receipts, according to Health Ministry data.

In contrast, Bogota seemed to be doing a better job, reporting that its vaccinations were already at 46% of total doses received.

Remarkably, relatively remote territories and areas including Choco, Amazonas, Casanare, Buenaventura and Vichada all reported vaccination rates of at least 90%, best in all Colombia.

However, another key factor explaining the delay between vaccine-shipments and shots-into-arms is the several-weeks-of-waiting required between the first and second shots of the two-dose regimen for the Pfizer vaccine.

Vaccinators Expanding

Meanwhile, boosting the total number of certified Covid-19 vaccination professionals also will help accelerate the daily shot rates here, according to the Ministry.

Today, Colombia has more than 30,000-such trained-and-certified vaccination professionals, with another 21,000 due to gain their required Covid-19 certifications by the end of March 2021, according to the Ministry.

In addition, another 107,000 health workers have signed-up for Covid-19 vaccination training, which will greatly expand capacity in the coming months, the Ministry adds.

Antioquia’s Front-Line Health Workers

Meanwhile, the Antioquia departmental government reported March 9 that 76% of front-line health workers here have already gotten their Covid-19 vaccinations.

Those health workers – along with people 80 years and older – are first priority in the national Covid-19 immunization campaign.

The Antioquia government calculates that front-line health workers and adults 80-and-over total 200,000 persons here, nearly all likely to be vaccinated before the end of March.


Medellin-based packaging manufacturer and exporter Compañia de Empaques announced March 10 that its full-year 2020 net income rose 36% year-on-year, to COP$20 billion (US$5.7 million).

Gross income in 2020 also rose to COP$478 billion (US$136 million), up from COP$457 billion (US$130 million) in 2019, according to the company.

Compañia de Empaques specializes in the conversion of natural fibers including cabuya (fique) and pita as well as synthetic fibers (mainly plastic) into many types of packaging materials for industrial, agricultural, construction and mining companies.

Its various brands of products include “Duramalla” (plastic straps), “Cartonplast” (plastic sheets for signage), “Duratela” (natural and synthetic-fiber packaging bags), “Duracordel” (natural threads), “Durazuncho” (printable tapes), “Concrefuerte” (polypropylene additive for concrete), “Agrotextil” (strengthening fiber) and “Sacos Compañia” (natural-fiber bags).

“Our corporate social responsibility is focused on promoting the sowing and transformation of fique, a biodegradable and highly 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 illicit crops in our country,” the company adds.


Phoenix, Arizona-based Intertec International announced March 10 that it’s expanding operations in Medellin and Bogota, seeking 100 bilingual information technology (IT) professionals for its Colombia operations over the next nine months.

According to a joint announcement from Intertec and Agencia de Cooperacion e Inversion de Medellin y el Area Metropolitana (ACI, Medellin’s investment-promotion agency), Colombia now becomes the second base of operations in Latin America, following Costa Rica.

“Colombia is strategic due to the quality of the talent, the availability of services and a location that gives us proximity to the United States and to our clients,” said Kent Feuerhelm, executive vice president of Intertec International.

The company is seeking “bilingual professionals in the areas of software development and engineering, quality assurance, software testing, automation, IT infrastructure, project management and operations support personnel,” according to the announcement.

Besides new operations underway in Medellín and Bogotá, Intertec also aims to hire IT pros in Cali and Barranquilla, according to the company.

“Intertec has 20 years of operations, providing custom software and IT services to industries such as electronics, aerospace, education, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, high-tech distribution, direct sales, finance, hospitality and others,” according to the company.

Both ACI and the national investment agency ProColombia aided the decision to locate here, according to those agencies.


Medellin-based multinational gold mining giant Mineros SA announced March 8 that its full-year 2020 profits fell 42% year-on-year, to US$37.5 million, but fourth quarter (4Q) 2020 rose 54% year-on-year, to US$13 million.

Full-year 2020 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) dipped 32%, to US$128 million, while gross revenues fell 16%, to US$411 million.

“During the fourth quarter of 2020, the price of gold had a stable behavior with a slight increase of 0.7%, with an average price for the quarter of US$1,876 per ounce,” according to Mineros.

Corporate-wide 4Q 2020 gold production fell 19% year-on-year, to 64,908 ounces of gold, of which Colombia accounted for 17,561 ounces, Nicaragua 26,660 ounces and Argentina 20,687 ounces.

The 4Q production decline resulted from “a drop in production from Nicaragua due to hurricanes 'Iota' and 'Eta' and by lower production in Argentina, explained by the natural ending of a deposit of the open pit mine,” according to Mineros.

Cash cost of production rose 14% while all-in sustaining costs (AISC) rose 24%, “mainly explained by the lower production, by the purchases of artisanal material in Nicaragua given the high price of gold and by investments in maintenance that had been delayed because of the [Covid-19] pandemic,” according to the company.

However, the average selling price of gold in 4Q 2020 rose 28% year-on-year, boosting total revenues despite the production decline.

At the end of 4Q 2020, net debt -- total debt less cash and equivalents — fell 82% year-on-year, to US$11 million. “This decrease is mainly due to the increase in cash and cash equivalents totaling more than US$57 million, along with a US$13 million decrease in debt,” according to the company.

In Colombia, 4Q 2020 production fell 14% year-on-year, to 18,000 ounces, “explained by a lower average grade, by the sale of Operadora Minera [underground mining] and by delays in some environmental permits during the quarter, given the difficulty of coordinating visits with the authorities due to Covid,” according to the company.

Future Plans

Mineros now foresees 2021 production in the range of 257,000 to 282,000 ounces of gold.

Its 2021 plans also include exploration programs aiming to increase the life of the Gualcamayo mine in Argentina, as well as “completion of internal technical studies for the Porvenir and Luna Roja mines in Nicaragua, the DCP mine in Argentina and the La Pepa mine in Chile,” according to the company.

Mineros also aims to “develop new alluvial mining methods in Colombia, to increase annual production and diversify operations. We are currently at the final stages of an internal project that uses suction dredges to reach new areas. Also, we have been working on a formalization model, bringing third parties that operate within our mining titles, in areas that our dredges cannot access,” the company added.


Medellin-based multinational power transmission, highways concessions and telecom services provider ISA announced March 3 that its full-year 2020 net income rose 46.7%, to COP$646 billion (US$175 million).

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 38%, to COP$1.9 trillion (US$516 million), while operating revenues rose 23%, to COP$2.16 trillion (US$587 million), according to the company.

While ISA has operated highway concessions in Chile and Peru for years, during 2020 ISA made its first entry into the road concessions business in Colombia, via the acquisition of Concesión Costera Cartagena Barranquilla.

ISA also bought a 65% stake in a new “Interconexiones” alliance with Medellin-based highway construction giant Construcciones El Cóndor, which enables further participation in public tenders and private infrastructure projects in Colombia and Peru, according to the company.

As for its electric-power transmission business unit, “five energy transmission projects entered into operation in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Peru, expanding our infrastructure to 47.358 kilometers and 95,720 millivolt-amps (MVA),” according to the company.

“ISA also was awarded eight energy transmission projects in Colombia, Peru, and Brazil, and we acquired 100% of the shares of Orazul Energy Group, which will cover 746 kilometers of circuit.

“Furthermore, through ISA CTEEP, our affiliate, we entered into an agreement in Brazil to acquire 100% of the shares of Piratininga-Bandeirantes Transmissora de Energia (PBTE).

“In terms of the decarbonization of the Colombian energy sector, ISA was the first company in the power sector to issue green bonds in the stock exchange market.

“ISA also inaugurated a solar plant at its headquarters in Medellín, Colombia, that supplies part of the energy required in our headquarters but is also used to conduct research on distributed energy resources in a company-academia-government alliance to develop an integral proposal that will transform the Colombian energy sector.

“Finally, in for the Telecommunications business unit, through Internexa, we strengthened the services that support our customers' digital transformation processes. Additionally, we gained access to two additional Internet Exchange Points,” 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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