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Written by November 27 2019 0

Ireland-based global high-technology consultant Accenture reveals on November 29, 2019, the debut of Colombia’s first tech-demonstration “Nano Lab” -- at Medellin’s “Ruta N” technology incubation center.

“This space will immerse local customers in the latest emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, extended reality, quantum computing, robotics, cybersecurity, blockchain, among others, to help them understand how these innovations influence their future business operations,” according to Accenture.

“For example, an experience of connected mines shows how augmented reality allows users to visualize a complete mining operation with digital copies of physical assets, such as trucks and drills, running an analysis to provide data on the productivity of individual machines.

“A demonstration of the coffee supply chain shows how blockchain and smart contract technologies can be used to organize and provide transparency to the coffee value chain, recording how the beans change hands, are packaged, repackaged and how they are ground or are served,” the company added.

According to Accenture Colombia president Marco Ribas, “the Nano Lab of Accenture in Medellín offers a new way to bring innovation experiences to our customers in Colombia, allowing them to access the best innovations of Accenture Labs R&D teams worldwide.”

The Accenture global network includes an “ecosystem of allies that includes clients, startups, academic institutions and the public sector, which will join a global network of more than 50 laboratories and Nano Labs of Accenture,” according to the company.

The scheme includes artificial intelligence (AI) “process optimization and influence on strategic decision making” as well as “extended reality (XR) immersive technologies that create completely new ways for people to experience and connect with the world around them,” according to the company.

Other technologies arising in the network include “next-generation cybersecurity services to build resilience from the inside out” as well as "Internet of Things" (IoT) technologies that employ advanced sensors, robotics and machine learning, according to the company.

Written by November 26 2019 0

Medellin-based multinational utilities giant EPM announced November 25 that its 2020 capital and operating budget will hit COP$17 trillion (US$4.9 billion).

“The budget authorized by the EPM board of directors responds to a rigorous planning exercise and includes resources for the attention of the Hidroituango hydroelectric project, which in 2019 has reached important milestones in the protection of communities, care of the environment and technical recovery of this future power plant,” according to EPM.

“The budget also includes items for the expansion and replacement of electric power distribution networks and the development of aqueduct and sewage works in order to increase the coverage of services for citizens [as well as] maintain and/or improve their continuity and quality,” according to the company

The 2020 budget will be financed through three sources: cash-on-hand totaling COP$1.9 trillion/US$548 million (11%), current income from public services including electric power, natural gas, sanitation and drinking water, which in 2020 will total COP$9.8 trillion/US$2.8 billion (58%), and capital resources raised, which for next year will be COP$5.3 trillion/US$1.5 billion (31%).

“The capital resources raised include planned loan disbursements, compensation that is expected to be received from the insurer [Mapfre] for damages caused in the contingency of the Hidroituango hydroelectric project, and dividends that the company will receive from national and international subsidiaries,” according to EPM.

The EPM 2020 budget will be distributed as follows:

• Operating expenses: COP$5.9 trillion/US$1.7 billion (34%).
• Commercial operation expenses: COP$3.9 trillion/US$1.1 billion (23%).
• Investment expenses: COP$4.8 trillion/US$1.4 billlion (28%).
• Debt service: COP$1.8 trillion/US$520 million (11%).
• Cash availability: COP$600 billion/US$173 million) (4%).

EPM also aims to transfer part of its profit surpluses to the municipality of Medellín -- its sole shareholder -- totaling COP$1.3 trillion (US$375 million) during 2020.

Written by November 18 2019 0

Toronto, Canada-based Gran Colombia Gold (GCG) on November 14 reported US$9 million net income for third quarter (3Q) 2019, down from US$14 million in 3Q 2018 “primarily as a result of a non-operating loss on financial instruments in the third quarter this year.”

As for nine-months (January through September) 2019, net income rebounded to US$17.7 million, compared with a net loss of US$11.4 million in the first nine months of 2018..

Commenting on the results, GCG CEO Lombardo Paredes said: “As expected, our third quarter 2019 financial results reflected the positive impact of the higher gold prices while our high-grade Segovia [Antioquia] operations continued to deliver solid operating performance.

“With one quarter to go, we are on track to meet our production and cost guidance for the full year [2019]. For the first nine months of 2019, our revenue was up 19%, our adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization [EBITDA] was up 35%, our operating cash flow was up 22% and our free cash flow was up 31%, all compared with the first nine months last year.

“Our financial strength showed further improvement in the third quarter [2019] with our cash position increasing to US$63.3 million -- and we added another CAD$15 million [US$11 million] to our cash position in early November with the strategic investment by Eric Sprott,,” he added.

According to GCG, the company “remains on track to meet its gold production guidance for 2019. With 56,271 ounces produced in the third quarter of 2019, compared with 57,163 ounces in the third quarter of 2018, total production for the first nine months of 2019 was 174,754 ounces, up 7% over the first nine months last year.

“With another 21,011 ounces produced in October, the company’s trailing 12-months’ gold production at the end of October now stands at 232,960 ounces, up 7% over 2018’s annual production,” according to GCG.

Continental Gold Results

Meanwhile, fellow Toronto-based gold miner Continental Gold on November 14 reported a net loss of US$8.47 million for 3Q 2019, compared to a net loss of US$7.26 million in 3Q 2018.

For nine-months 2019, Continental posted a net loss of US$34 million, compared to a net loss of US$17.8 million in nine-months 2018.

The company reported an accumulated deficit as at September 30, 2019 of US$472.7 million and a positive working capital balance of US$31.8 million.

Development activities at the company’s flagship Buriticá, Antioquia project “remain on budget and on schedule for mechanical completion in 1Q 2020,” according to Continental.

Overall construction progress by mid-November 2019 was 90% complete, with 100% mechanical completion now forecast for January 2020.

In a separate November 13 presentation to the Colombia Gold Symposium here, Continental Gold’s Colombia operations CEO Luis Meneses boasted that the Buriticá project eventually will produce some 300,000 ounces of gold per year, generating about US$1 billion in taxes and royalties for Colombia (over the life-of-project) -- along with 4,700 direct and indirect jobs.

Not only has the project won wide community support, but also the project will be environmentally friendly, Meneses explained here.

Among the factors making Buriticá relatively benign: a new, US$44 million water treatment plant, and a tailings recycling scheme that eventually will fill-in the old mine excavation tunnels.

Community development projects sponsored by Continental include fish farms, poultry raising, coffee farming and natural-fibers production. In all, Continental has already invested COP$2.2 billion (US$638,000) in 320 development projects that benefit some 1,600 local people, he showed.

In addition, Continental has invested another COP$2.7 billion (US$783,000) in the “programa de encadenamineto productivo” (PEP) project, which includes laundry services, worker feeding, 500 employee houses, a hardware store, civil works, a mechanical shop, and a uniforms-production workshop -- all employing local people.

In all, some 80% of all Buriticá employees are from Antioquia, including “formalization” of some formerly illegal miners -- “although there are lots of threats surrounding this program” from criminal miners, Meneses cautioned.

On the environmental front, Continental is working with Fundacion Pantera, Animal Bank and Conservation International on biodiversity projects including efforts to preserve five species of wildcats in the greater area, he added.

Written by November 16 2019 0

Medellin-based multinational utilities giant EPM announced November 15 that its third quarter (3Q) 2019 consolidated net income fell 25% year-on-year, to COP$457 billion (US$134 million), down from COP$607 billion (US$177 million) in 3Q 2018.

The 3Q decline came despite a 9% year-on-year hike in gross revenues and a 13% boost in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), according to the company.

On the other hand, nine-months 2019 consolidated profits (January through September) rose 9%, to COP$181 billion (US$53 million), from COP$166 billion (US$48 million ) in nine-months 2018 -- mainly thanks to greater demand for energy and higher power prices in Central American markets, along with higher energy sales in Colombia’s regulated power market, according to EPM.

Nine-months 2019 EBITDA also rose 15% year-on-year, while gross income rose 11% over the same nine months in 2018, according to the company.

EPM’s international affiliates generated 36% of corporate revenues, at COP$825 billion (US$241 million), up 20% year-on-year.

Its “Ensa” affiliate in Panama generated COP$361 billion (US$105 million) thanks to a boost in client numbers and higher prices. The “EEGSA” affiliate in Guatemala generated COP$272 billion (US$79 million), thanks to greater power sales, while the “Delsur” affiliate in El Salvador brought-in COP$147 billion (US$43 million) mainly due to greater residential and industrial demand along with higher power tariffs.

As for EPM’s Colombia affiliates, the energy division’s income rose 7% year-on-year, while the water, sewage-treatment and trash-collection utilities boosted income 116% year-on-year, mainly thanks to the start-up of the “Aguas Claras” sewage plant north of Medellin.

Hidroituango Outlook

Meanwhile, EPM revealed that as of September 30, 2019, the Hidroituango hydroelectric project had reached 74.4% completion.

“For commissioning, it is estimated that the first power generation unit could enter service from the last quarter of 2021. However, this date of commissioning is very dynamic, due to the changes that occur in the variable techniques and the evolution and efficiency of the measures implemented to meet the contingency,” according to the company.

As for the company’s Mapfre insurance policy covering lost power sales and physical damage at Hidroituango, “the policy establishes an insured limit of US$2.55 billion for coverage of material damage to infrastructure and equipment. It also has coverage to cover the delay-of-entry-into-operation (money no longer received for damages arising from the contingency) for US$628 million, amounts that establish the maximum responsibility of the insurer,” according to EPM.

“The amount that the insurer will recognize and its corresponding payment schedule will be the result of a rigorous analysis of the quantification of damages, the results of which will be linked to the conditions of the policy such as deductibles, limits, additional coverage, among others,” the company added.

Written by November 15 2019 0

Medellin-based multinational Grupo Orbis – producer of “Pintuco” paints, “Otek” water-handling systems and numerous chemical products – on November 14 posted a COP$10 billion (US$2.9 million) net profit, a big reversal from the COP$8 billion (US$2.3 million) net loss in 3Q 2018.

Gross revenues rose 6.3% year-on-year, to COP$1.08 trillion (US$315 million), while earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) jumped 125%, to COP$87.7 billion (US$25.6 million).

These positive results are mainly due to a 9% jump in paint sales and a 71% jump in paints-division EBITDA -- spurred by architectural-sector demand along with general repainting demand in Colombia, according to the company.

Meanwhile, the Orbis chemicals division is benefitting from efficiencies resulting from the recent transfer of production to its Cartagena, Colombia facilities.

The company also credited better financial results from its affiliates in Brazil, Argentina and Central America.

Meanwhile, corporate financial obligations -- net of cash and short-term investments -- declined year-on-year, to 2.9-times, versus 4.2-times, the company added.

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Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

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