April 13, 2024
General News

Medellin Retains ‘AAA’ Debt Rating Despite EPM’s Hidroituango Problems

Wall Street bond rater Fitch announced November 16 that it has affirmed Medellin’s favorable “AAA(col)” long-term debt rating despite the financial challenges facing city-owned electric utility EPM because of problems with the giant “Hidroituango” hydroelectric power project.

According to Fitch, Medellin also enjoys a “stable” debt oulook and a favorable “F1+(col)” short-term debt rating.

“The rating action is based on the financial strength of Medellín, which is a reflection of its positive fiscal performance, supported by its importance within the national economic context,” according to Fitch.

“Medellín benefits from the important capital resources coming from the dividends received from EPM [rated ‘AAA (col)’ and ‘F1 + (col)’; stable perspective], which allows the city to be more flexible to allocate funds to finance capital expenditures.

“In general, EPM dividends have represented around 20% of the total revenue of the city since 2012. The transfers to Medellin in 2017 were COP$1.01 trillion [US$319 million], in addition, COP$300 billion [US$95 million] were paid corresponding to the sale of the participation of EPM in Isagen.

“The contingency of the Hidroituango hydroelectric project has impacted EPM’s financial plan, considering the expenses related to the resolution of its technical complications and the change in [power sales revenues] projections due to the delays presented. Fitch classifies EPM transfers as capital income used exclusively to finance Medellín’s capital spending program.

“Therefore, it is not expected that the difficulties in Hidroituango will have a significant effect on the key financial indicators of Medellin in the short-to-medium term. Likewise, Medellín has a high degree of financial flexibility that allows it to make the necessary adjustments to its medium-term financial plans in a scenario of decreasing EPM financial transfers.

“The city maintains a high share of its debt in foreign currency (49.5%), whose risks are under continuous monitoring. This aspect is compensated since 36% of the indebtedness is contracted at a fixed interest rate and [Medellin] has an adequate liquidity position in which the free destination liquid resources have more than once covered claims. In addition, the Medellín administration is working to have [adequate] external debt coverage to reduce the risk exposure at the exchange rate,” Fitch found.

As for the general economic outlook, Fitch rates Medellin as “strong with stable tendency.”

“Medellín plays a very important role in the country’s economic and social contribution. Its contribution to the national GDP is approximately 7.3% and maintains an unemployment rate of 10% to 11%, higher than the national average,” according to Fitch. “However, due to its internal migratory attractiveness, Fitch notes the existence of high investment needs in various social sectors. The city continues on the path of investments that allow improving the coverage rates of its citizens at levels above 95% in education, health and public services,” the ratings agency concluded.

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