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Investor confidence: Minibares Ltda has benefited from Colombia's economic stability and the increase in tourism.


IF YOU WERE TO JUDGE the future of Colombia from what you read on Twitter, you would have a gloomy vision of what is to come. Every day, without exception, many of us who try to play an advocacy role on this social network receive striking insults largely for presenting numbers-backed evidence about pragmatic global issues. As many readers know, I am and will be a loyal advocate of the policies implemented by former President Advaro Uribe Velez, who pulled Colombia's economy out of a deep pit and left a country with abundant opportunities to continue down a path of economic progress and social inclusion as an inheritance to his successor, Juan Manuel Santos. I got a recent insult on Twitter from somebody who couldn't stand my presentation of logical evidence about the rise of the tourism sector since President Uribe took charge of the country.

Minibares Ltda. is a family company that has been fighting for years to generate worthy employment in Colombia. Minibares delivers soft drinks, vodkas, beer and crackers to business travelers returning to their hotel rooms after a long day of work, or to families on vacation. The company started more than 20 years ago as a dream of Dr. Carlos Jose Ruiz, its former president and majority shareholder. The company's ambition always has been to provide the best possible service to the "wandering tenants" of hotels in Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and, at one time, Venezuela.

The reader can imagine how Minibares' investment panned out in Venezuela. In the first four years (1999 to 2003), the business was profitable. But when 21st century socialism started to play out in full, the business got tough. Among other things, they couldn't find stable suppliers or prices, and the business became untenable. Given the adverse circumstances, Minibares pulled out of Venezuela in 2010 at the loss of 10 years of work.

Not all is dark. Colombia's history is completely different thanks to the vibrant investment in tourism since former President Alvaro Uribe took control of the country and transformed Colombia from a "failed state" to an honorary member of the CIVETS (acronym for Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa). Minibares Ltda. went from serving 10 hotels in Colombia at the end of 2002 to 50 today, equivalent to about 6,000 rooms lodging some 1.5 million guests a year. This exponential growth wouldn't have been possible if the Uribe government hadn't decided to "bet the house" on providing legal and physical security to hotel entrepreneurs, who expanded the offering of rooms in Colombia by 13,000 units as the traffic of foreign tourists surged from 500,000 in 2002 to 1.5 million in 2010. This growth allowed Minibares to go from providing 10 people with reputable employment (medical insurance, bonuses, transport subsidies, vacations, pensions, unemployment insurance, etc.) to 90 people today.

The founding partner of Minibares Ltda., Dr. Carlos Jose Ruiz, and his son, Carlos Daniel Ruiz, have made it possible for 90 Colombian families to have a better life by "selling water and potato chips," as Dr. Ruiz puts it humbly. A social hero like Dr. Ruiz couldn't have existed in the Venezuela of Hugo Chavez. But he does exist in the Colombia of democratic security and investor confidence that President Alvaro Uribe handed over to his successor Juan Manuel Santos.

Alberto J. Bernal Leon is the director of investigations at Bulltick Capital Markets. You can follow him on Twitter @ AlbertoBernalLe.
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Title Annotation:THE BOTTOM LINE
Author:Bernal-Leon, Alberto J.
Publication:Latin Trade
Geographic Code:3COLO
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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