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Medellin-based electric power giant EPM announced August 10 a new conciliation process with the “Hidroituango” design and construction contractors to resolve an estimated US$2.6 billion in losses resulting from a diversion tunnel collapse at the hydroelectric dam project two years ago.

The conciliation process aims to avoid a lengthy court battle over damage claims at the 2.4-gigawatt, US$5 billion Hidroituango project, according to EPM. The first generation units at Hidroituango are now expected to go on-line in 2022 -- delayed by more than four years.

Hidroituango project insurers Suramericana and Chubb Insurance are also involved in the proceeding, according to EPM.

The decision to enter conciliation follows a “root-cause study by the international specialized firm Skava Consulting and a meticulous review of all the documentation in legal matters,” according to EPM.

Those studies found that the Hidroituango design consortium (Integral and Solingral SA), the “CCCI” construction consortium (Camargo Correa, Conconcreto and Coninsa-Ramón H) and the consortium controller (Ingetec-Sedic) alarmingly had discovered “problems to correctly comply with the ‘milestone of entry into commercial operation of the generation units,’” according to EPM.

To overcome the estimated start-up delays, “recommendations, decisions and actions that were taken brought with them a risk which ultimately led to the collapse of the auxiliary diversion gallery (GAD) and forced unprecedented management of the environmental, social and infrastructure risks inside the [damaged] transformer cavern,” according to EPM.

As a result of the tunnel collapse, EPM not only suffered losses to internal dam infrastructure, expensive power generation equipment, damage to downstream buildings, bridges and compensatory payments to downstream populations temporarily dislocated, but also massive financial losses in delayed power sales, financial interest, lost profits and offsetting payments to Colombia’s power grid as ordered by the national CREG energy regulator.

“Before going to court and raising the claim for COP$9.9 trillion [US$2.6 billion] against the consortia, EPM must exhaust the requirement of conciliation with those involved,” according to EPM.

“This process will take three months and its maximum duration will be until November 10. In the event that conciliation fails, the administrative litigation jurisdiction, headed by the Council of State, will be the one to settle the economic controversy between EPM and the consortia. In the event that conciliation is not achieved, this would be the biggest lawsuit filed by a public law entity against any contractor in Colombia.”

To oversee conciliation, “EPM requested the participation of the [Colombian] Attorney General, the Office of the Comptroller General, and the Agency for Legal Defense of the State. A delegated attorney will be in charge of coordinating the conciliation between the parties in dispute within the three months following the filing,” according to the company.

Medellin-based highway, dam and buildings construction giant Constructora Conconcreto announced August 6 that its second quarter (2Q) 2020 net income fell 61% year-on-year, to COP$22 billion (US$5.87 million), from COP$57 billion (US$15 million) in 2Q 2019.

Ordinary income likewise fell 37% year-on-year, to COP$264 billion (US$70.5 million), while earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) dropped 43%, to COP$59.7 billion (US$15.9 million).

“Despite the Covid-19 contingency the world is going through, the company maintained positive profits and margins,” according to Conconcreto.

“Compared against 2019, there is a decrease at the level of income and gross profit due to the affectation of the volume of work and the behavior of investments due to the affectations of the Covid-19. This decrease was partially offset by lower expense and lower financial cost.”

Construction Backlog

At end of 2Q 2020, the company’s construction backlog totaled COP$2 trillion (US$534 million), “which corresponds to around 2.6 years of operation,” according to Conconcreto. Of that total, 81.7% corresponds to infrastructure projects and 18.3% corresponds to buildings, including housing projects.

The company’s engineering and design division meanwhile has a backlog totaling COP$14.87 billion (US$3.97 million) “focused on projects such as Rubicon Plaza, Vivienda Contree, Contree Castropol, Transmilenio Soacha and Transmilenio Troncal 68 Section 5 and 8,” according to Conconcreto

Government Dismisses ‘Collusion’ Charges in Bogota Project

On a positive front, Colombia’s Superintendent of Industry and Commerce dismissed charges over alleged collusion in the bidding process for construction of a third lane in the Bogotá-Girardot project.

“The decision confirms the fair, transparent and competitive behavior of Conconcreto and especially its commitment to the development of infrastructure in our country,” according to the company.

On another positive front, the Superintendent of Industry and Commerce granted Conconcreto a patent on a novel construction and connection system from precast beams and columns. “This system allows to improve the yields and productivity in the construction process of buildings, guaranteeing a structural behavior,” according to the company.

Meanwhile, Conconcreto’s participation in EPM’s 2.4-gigawatt “Hidroituango” hydroelectric plant in Antioquia will continue through at least December 31, 2020, under a recently modified contract agreement.

ISA 2Q 2020 Net Income Jumps 25% Year-on-Year

Thursday, 06 August 2020 12:58 Written by

Medellin-based multinational electric-power transmission, highways concessions and telecom infrastructure provider ISA on August 5 reported a 25% year-on-year hike in second quarter (2Q) 2020 net income, to COP$550 billion (US$147 million).

Operating revenues rose 32%, to COP$2.28 trillion US$609 million), while total earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) jumped 30%, to COP$1.85 trillion (US$494 million).

First half (1H) 2020 net income rose 17%, to COP$929 billion (US$248 million), while 1H 2020 gross revenues rose 19%, to COP$3.17 trillion (US$846 million), according to the company. Operating revenues for 1H 2020 hit COP$4.8 trillion (US$1.28 billion), up 21% year-on-year.

ISA credited the jump in profits to several factors including favorable increases in electric-power transmission tariffs at its Brazil operations, entry into operation of energy transmission projects in Colombia, Chile and Peru, as well as an “increase in the construction activity of the [highway and power-transmission] concessions.”

For 1H 2020, administration, operation, and maintenance (AOM) costs declined 1.7%, to COP$909 billion (US$243 million), “which shows an efficient management in the control of AOM costs and expenses on which the company is constantly working, and even more due to the current Covid-19 pandemic,” according to ISA.

During 2Q 2020, construction costs rose 80%, to COP$373 billion (US$99.6 million), “due to the progress of works in Chile, Peru, and Brazil,” according to the company.

Operating income for 1H 2020 rose 19.7% year on-year in part because of “higher depreciations and amortizations of new projects that entered into operation” along with “higher provisions for major maintenance in Peru” as well as “higher portfolio provision in Maipo [Chile],” according to the company.

So far this year, ISA’s investments total COP$1.8 trillion (US$480 million), of which 87% is in power transmission, 10% in road concessions 10% and 2.2% in telecom.

The Covid-19 crisis caused temporary suspension of some projects at the beginning of 2Q 2020 – since restarted – while “projects in Brazil continued constructions with some delays in supplies, maintaining at all times the appropriate measures enacted by the authorities and the new protection protocols,” ISA added.

Medellin-based multinational banking giant Bancolombia on August 5 posted a second quarter (2Q) 2020 net loss of COP$73 billion (US$19 million), a huge reversal from a COP$936 billion (US$249 million) net profit in 2Q 2019.

“The current situation associated with Covid-19 has caused uncertainty and business disruption globally, therefore significant impacts are anticipated on the performance of the global economy and macroeconomic variables in the countries in which Bancolombia operates,” according to the company.

“As a result, the banking sector in general, including Bancolombia, is exposed to changes in its business performance and outlook. The bank is exposed to deterioration of the loan portfolio by impacts on customers and by the materialization of losses from operational risk,” the company added.

In the meantime, “Bancolombia has focused its efforts on maintaining business continuity, the safety of its employees, operating the network of channels in an efficient way and structuring payments plan for lines of credit of its customers. These actions have impacted more than 2.2 million clients with loans that amounted more than COP$69 trillion [US$18 billion] in Colombia."

Corporate-wide gross loans grew 12.4% in 2Q 2020 versus 2Q 2019, while Colombian peso-denominated loans grew 9.6%.

“Deposits by customers reached COP$182 trillion [US$48 billion] during the quarter, increasing 24.8% in the last twelve months,” according to Bancolombia.

Net-loans-to-deposits ratio was 102.5% at the end of 2Q 2020, down from 104.0% at the end of 1Q 2020.

“Bancolombia’s funding strategy during the last months has been to maintain the average life and cost of time deposits and promote saving and checking accounts in the consumer segment in order to keep the funding cost at a minimum. The objective is to build and maintain ample liquidity and stable margins,” according to the company.

At end of 2Q 2020, capital adequacy ratio was 12.6%, “above the minimum regulatory [level] in Colombia,” according to the company.

Meanwhile, “the digital footprint and banking penetration in Colombia strengthened. The [latest] quarter closed with 6.6 million digital accounts, 3.4 million ‘Bancolombia a la mano’ users and 3.2 million users in ‘Nequi.’”

Loan provision charges for the quarter were COP$2.4 trillion (US$638 million), up 76% from 1Q 2020 and up 198% year-on-year. Coverage ratio for 90-day past due loans was 208.3%.

“This level of provisions was explained by Covid-19 and the update of macroeconomic variables in our expected losses models,” according to Bancolombia.

During 2Q 2020, net fees and income from services totaled COP$683 billion (US$181 million), down 14.2% compared to 1Q 2020, and by 9.5% compared to 2Q 2019. “The performance in fees was due to lower volumes of transactions and the reduction in the cost of some services, both as a result of Covid-19 pandemic,” according to the company.

“Fees from credit and debit cards decreased by 19.5% compared to 1Q 2020 and by 12.9% compared to 2Q 2019. Fees from asset management and trust services decreased by 12.5% compared to 1Q 2020 and by 10% compared to 2Q 2019. Fees from our bancassurance business increased by 6.8% compared to 1Q 2020 and by 19.9% with respect to 2Q 2019,” the company added.


Medellin-based multinational cement/concrete giant Cementos Argos reported August 6 that its second quarter (2Q) 2020 net profits dropped 79% year-on-year, to COP$12 billion (US$3.2 million).

Revenues likewise declined by 9%, to COP$2.1 trillion (US$555 million), while adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization fell 6.4%, to COP$414 billion (US$109 million).

For all of first half (1H) 2020, profits dropped 77.8%, to COP$16 billion (US$4.2 million), while revenues are down 4.6%. Adjusted EBITDA for 1H 2020 is essentially unchanged versus 1H 2019, according to the company.

Colombia Results

In Colombia, adjusted EBITDA for 2Q 2020 fell 62%, to COP$43 billion (US$11 million), while revenues fell 44%, to COP$316 billion (US$83.5 million), according to Cementos Argos.

Cement volumes fell 46% while ready-mixed concrete (RMC) volumes were down 56%. Aggregate sales likewise fell 61%.

“At the beginning of the second the quarter, Colombia experienced a complete lockdown across the country, with a gradual reopening starting from mid-April,” the company noted.

“The cement market has experienced a gradual recovery ever since, as evidenced by the monthly increases in cement consumption published by [Colombia’s economic statistics agency] DANE, up 191% month-on-month [MoM] in May and 28% MoM in June -- but still presenting monthly consumptions below last year’s levels,” according to Argos.

“Regarding the market dynamics per sectors, the residential segment has evidenced an improvement during the last two months, but it has not achieved yet its full potential. Sales of new houses during June increased 60% MoM, still implying a decrease of -13% year-on-year.

“On this segment, the government has announced a subsidy for200,000 houses, to be equally split between social housing and non-social housing, which we expect will have a positive impact in the residential segment in the mid-term.

“On the infrastructure front, the government has announced that around 90% of all the construction sites related to this sector have been already reactivated in the country, in line with our expectations of a good performance of the sector during the current year.

“The government has also announced the ‘5G’ [fifth-generation highway] infrastructure projects with an estimated investment of COP$20 trillion [US$5.3 billion] for the first package of concessions to be awarded, which could start its structuring process in early 2021,” according to the company.

U.S. Results

“The U.S. market continued to prove its resilience during the second quarter of 2020, with healthy market dynamics despite the evolution of the pandemic in states such as Texas and Florida,” according to Argos.

“Cement volumes experienced a decrease of 5.8% year-over-year, affected mainly by lower volumes in the Northeast region, due to the strictness of the lockdown measures, as well as by a reduced demand from the wholesale segment.”

Caribbean & Central America (CCA) Results

During 2Q 2020, “most of the countries within the CCA region experienced total or partial quarantines, affecting the volumes of the region,” according to Argos.

“Cement and RMC volumes decreased 23.9% and 90.6% respectively as a consequence of these lockdown measures. Honduras and Dominican Republic experienced a gradual recovery from mid-April on, to the point that the monthly volumes of June 2020 surpassed in 7% and 16% respectively when compared to the same month of 2019.

“Panama, on the other hand, only started its partial reopening from the first weeks of June, when some infrastructure projects were allowed to be reopened. During that month, the country managed to recover volumes in a 65%, when compared to the volume of June 2019,” Argos added.

“Haiti not only remained open during the whole quarter, but also experienced a 5.3% increase in volume, and a 9.7% increase in prices when compared to the same quarter of last year, as a result of the positive market dynamics that the country exhibits.

“This positive evolution within the [CCA] region indicates that some countries may recover faster than initially expected. We remain cautiously optimistic about the second half of the year, considering that countries such as Dominican Republic will face a change of President, and also taking into account the limited public budgets that these countries have to face the later consequences of the pandemic,” Argos concluded.

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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.

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