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Colombia President Ivan Duque announced July 31 on his state visit to China that Chinese President Xi Jinping signed protocol deals that eventually will boost exports of Colombian bananas, avocados, coffee, meats and shellfish to China.

Initial deals enable export of 4 million boxes of bananas (mainly produced in Antioquia) and 960 tons of Haas avocados to China this year, according to the announcement.

Further initial agreements “open up the possibility for us to have greater exports of Colombian coffee,” according to President Duque.

In addition, the Chinese government announced that it will grant 100 full academic scholarships so that more young Colombians can study in the best Chinese universities.

On another front, a new communications deal will enable exporters “to use the electronic commerce platforms of the People's Republic of China to offer Colombian products,” according to the announcement.

As for the possibility of expanding Chinese tourism to Colombia, President Duque said he talked to President Xi about a project that eventually would open a direct flight between China and Colombia.

“Chinese tourism in Colombia barely represents 0.5% of our visitors,” according to President Duque. “Last year [2018], we had only about 15,000 Chinese visitors to the country, and that figure can be multiplied,” he added.


Medellin-based multinational foods giant Nutresa announced July 26 that its first half (1H) 2019 net income rose 14.6% year-on-year, to COP$2.5 trillion (US$759 million).

Consolidated sales also rose by 7.4% year-on-year, according to the company.

“Colombia [revenues] continue with a positive performance, at COP$2.9 trillion [US$880 million], representing 62.7% of total revenues and up 5.2% compared to the same period of the previous year,” according to Nutresa.

International sales, at COP$1.7 trillion (US$516 million), represented 37.3% of total sales and were 11.2% higher than in the first half of 2018, according to the company.

Operating expenses grew by 4.5%, but operating income jumped even higher, at 16.2% year-on-year.

As for earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), this metric rose 20% year-on-year, to COP$648 billion (US$196 million), while EBITDA margin came-in at 13.9%, according to the company.


Colombia-based Cemex LatAm – producer and marketer of cement and concrete in Colombia, Panamá, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala – on July 25 posted a second quarter (2Q) 2019 net loss of US$4 million, down from a US$4 million net profit in 2Q 2018.

However, consolidated volumes of gray cement reached 1.5 million tons during 2Q 2019, up 2% year-on-year, “driven by higher volumes mainly in Colombia,” according to the company.

“In Colombia, net sales increased by 7% during the quarter in terms of local currency, driven by higher cement volumes, as well as higher cement and aggregate prices,” according to Cemex.

“However, this positive trend in sales was not enough to mitigate the increase in costs of coal, electricity and distribution in Colombia, nor the weakness in Central American markets,” added Cemex LatAm general director Jaime Muguiro.

“Despite this challenging environment, we are satisfied with the generation of free cash flow and debt reduction during the first half [2019]. Our free cash flow reached US$40 million in this period, an improvement of US$24 million compared to the same period of 2018. We reduced our net debt by US$45 million, from US$827 million in December [2018] to US$782 million in June [2019],” he said.


Medellin-based multinational electric power giant EPM announced July 18 that its 2.4-gigawatt (GW) “Hidroituango” hydroelectric power project in Antioquia has reached a crucial milestone: Completion of the 434.6-meters-high (above sea-level) dam.

Still remaining: installation of turbines and power-control works in the mechanical room, damaged last year by diverting Cauca River water through that room because of collapse of an adjacent, temporary diversion tunnel.

The Hidroituango project – now roughly estimated to cost about US$5 billion, mainly because of a three-year-delay in power output resulting from the collapse of the diversion tunnel – is scheduled to start 600 megawatts (MW) power production in late 2021, with full production gradually increasing in 2022 and 2023 until full capacity is reached in 2024.

Hidroituango ultimately will generate about 17% of the entire Colombian power output, along with untold billions of dollars of zero-emissions, “green” power revenues and profits for EPM (and its sole shareholder, the city of Medellin) in coming decades.

Meanwhile, Colombia’s Controller-General announced July 15 that the three-year delay at Hidroituango – pushing-back the originally scheduled December 2018 partial start-up – probably will cost EPM around COP$4 trillion (US$1.25 billion). However, EPM announced that it’s still studying the Controller’s report and hence wouldn’t provide further comment.

Bond Deal

On another front, EPM announced July 11 that it successfully launched a US$1.38 billion bond offering in the international market, further boosting investor confidence in the company despite the Hidroituango setback.

Investors from North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America eagerly responded to the deal, at three times the total offered.

The deal enabled EPM early payback of US$1.03 billion in existing, higher-cost debt and early buyback of another US$1.1 billion in another debt offering, according to the company.

Solar-Power Offering Expands

On yet another front, EPM announced July 10 that it’s expanding its existing solar-power business beyond large-scale commercial and industrial customers to homeowners and small businesses.

The new deal includes financing, installation of solar panels, a required power inverter, the required meter, maintenance, and provision of the required legal paperwork enabling customers to become net generators of power back into the local and national grid.


AeroMexico and Interjet – both based in Mexico City – simultaneously announced May 9, 2019 the expansion of nonstop flights between Medellin and Mexico, with onward connections.

AeroMexico has been offering twice-weekly nonstop service to/from Medellin and Cancun since last November 17 -- and just decided to continue those flights beyond its earlier, original plan to end that seasonal service in April.

Meanwhile, Interjet announced the launch of daily flights to/from Medellin and Mexico City and Cancun as of June 5.

The new Medellin service “will operate using Airbus A320 aircraft seating 150 passengers,” according to Interjet.

“Round trip-promotional fares between the U.S., Canada and Medellin, will start as low as US$350, taxes included. These special fares with be available for purchase until June 30, 2019 and valid for travel from June 5, 2019 through November 30, 2019,” according to Interjet.

“South America is a growing and significant market for both business and leisure travel,” added Interjet chief commercial officer Julio Gamero.

“With our expanded service, passengers to and from these destinations can now have convenient connections in Mexico City to New York City, Chicago and Dallas/Ft. Worth in the U.S., along with easy connections to Toronto and Montreal in Canada,” Gamero said.


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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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