General Manager, Marca País Colombia
We believe that energy, infrastructure, and economic development are critically important for Colombia as the country continues progressing; therefore, we are sure that success will require depth in areas where GE is an expert that excels. Colombia is currently one of the most attractive countries in the region for investment. This is the result of continued policies to open doors to foreign investment and create legal stability and an attractive environment for FDI. Colombia has a little bit of everything. It is not an oil country, but it has oil. It is not a gold country, but it has gold. Colombia has very good agricultural products like coffee and flowers. It also has a strong industrial sector, even though more infrastructure development is necessary. The size of the country is also an advantage. Colombia is larger than most other countries in the region except for Brazil. However, it needs to be better at execution.
Andean Zone President Colombia, Ecuador, & Venezue, Schneider Electric
The first focus of our company was Brazil and Argentina, and due to the crisis in Argentina in 2001 we decided to consider other countries and possibilities. The first move outside these two countries was Chile, where we bought a local company. During President Uribe's administration, we experienced a different business environment in Colombia. The fundamentals of the economy today are good, and you can see that inflation, interest, and economic growth are stable. It is not difficult to find good human resources here, and today in countries like Brazil a qualified workforce can be difficult to encounter. In 2010, Schneider Electric, along with Alstom, decided to buy Areva, which was a big player in the worldwide transmission and distribution industry. We then split the company into two parts. The distribution side was bought by Schneider, while the transmission segment went to Alstom. Areva had one plant in Colombia, which we incorporated into our organization. Colombia offers great opportunities to consumers and the industry.
Carlos Andrés Mejía Albert
General Manager, DuPont
Colombia is important; it is turning into the third largest economy in the region. It is also the third most populated country in the region after Brazil and Mexico, which represent DuPont's largest operations in Latin America. However, Colombia is also very significant. We're getting a lot of support from the corporation to identify the needs of the market and how DuPont can be part of that growth in this environment. Colombia is very active in energy—oil and gas in particular—and DuPont has a strong portfolio in that area. Infrastructure is another area where we are working very hard here in Colombia, providing new roads that the country needs. And now we're signing agreements and we have technology that can improve and enhance paving. We're present in one of the most important projects, the Ruta del Sol II, which is 528 kilometers in length and incorporates DuPont paving technology. We are also planning to be part of other projects in Colombia. Agriculture and nutrition are other areas we are interested in.
Founding Partner, Inverlink
We have been in the business for 26 years. Since that time, things have changed dramatically. We have experienced booming years such as what we have seen recently, but we have had difficult periods as well. The Colombian business community is not large enough to specialize in a particular area, but we accumulated very significant experience in sectors like energy. For almost eight years, we were very successful in the consolidation of the supermarket retail business. We bought for a client of our firm a minority position of Carulla, which was then the second largest retail chain in Colombia. In seven years, we were able to make a dozen acquisitions that along with internal growth allowed this company to multiply its sales six fold. For every peso that it sold when we started, it sold six by the time of completion. Its synergies and economies of scale were tremendous, and it was a very successful operation. We sold it for $770 million to Grupo Éxito, which comprised the largest retail chain in Colombia by far.
Camilo Villaveces Atuesta
President, Ashmore Management Company
There is both a great need for investment in infrastructure in the country and a lot of institutional savings. Institutional savings were growing rapidly and were not connected to infrastructure, and so we saw that we could be a vehicle to connect the two things. We thus decided to launch an infrastructure fund in Colombia, using Ashmore's well-known best practices and our knowledge of the country. We decided to launch the fund, and in the middle of the process the Colombian government decided it would like to inject some capital in a fund to invest in the country. It hired and retained the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and the Corporación Andina de Fomento (CAF) to choose a fund manager that would handle, among others, the money of the Colombian government. Initially, the government committed to contributing $125 million, but then, when the crisis of 2008 struck, it contributed $40 million. For 20 or 30 years, Colombia was highly unattractive because of violence and drugs. The economy was closed off, but all that has changed.
María Eugenia Coronado Orjuela
Executive President, Gas Natural Fenosa
Colombia has the greatest potential to grow in years to come thanks to the several free trade agreements (FTAs) the country has recently signed. Investment figures are rapidly growing in all economic sectors, and we need the same for the energy industry because we need to be ready to cope with the future increase in energy demands Colombia will require as part of its economic and social development. For that reason, we need to invest in electric and gas infrastructure at the national level. The company has focused its business strategy on the residential and housing segment. Around 60% of our growth comes from the construction of new housing units. Since the government aims to boost the development of new housing units for the Colombian population, we have enough room to clearly expand our operations in this segment. The acquisition of other distributors, for example Gas Oriente, among others, has also played a very important role in our growth in the market.
Manuel Andres Kornprobst
President, Nestlé Colombia
Nestlé represents 13% of all local production, and we do that to export to approximately 20 or 25 countries from here. There is a lot of Colombian coffee in most of the products you may know, be it Nescafé or Nespresso. I think that that segment has gotten old, and the yields are not as high as they used to be. I also think that younger people are no longer interested in working in the fields and thus are migrating to the cities, meaning we have an older population taking care of old crops. Such factors, along with other issues such as the rain and a fungus that grows on coffee, has meant that production has gone from 20 million bags to around 7.5 million. We have been discussing whether it would be in the interests of the country to bring in Robusta coffee. There are two varieties of coffee bean; there is the Arabica and there is the Robusta, which is a lower category of coffee, but the yields in the fields are much higher. With Robusta you do not need altitude, and if you do not need altitude you do not have the hills so you can use much more machinery, which is more efficient.