UPDATE 1-Endesa Chile to buy out partner in Gas Atacama power complex
(Adds company comments, context on Chile energy)
SANTIAGO, March 31 (Reuters) - Electricity generator Endesa Chile said on Monday that it would assume full ownership of the Gas Atacama power project by buying the remaining 50 percent stake owned by private equity fund Southern Cross for $309 million in cash.
Southern Cross had previously tried to sell its share of the 781-megawatt natural gas-fired power complex in Chile's mineral-rich north to its joint venture partner, but Endesa Chile rebuffed the offer in July, saying the price, which was not disclosed, was too high.
Chile, the world's No.1 copper producer, is on the brink of a power crunch, and coal-fired thermoelectric plants are unpopular with communities and environmentalists.
As such, liquefied natural gas has appeared an increasingly attractive option for the Andean country, but prices and availability of the super-cooled fossil fuel remain question marks.
Endesa Chile's high LNG contract availability and flexibility allowed it to efficiently buy the fuel in Chile and would allow it to optimize its use and location to supply plants, the company said in a statement.
The two parties would have 30 days to sign off on documents and contracts to wrap up the Gas Atacama transaction, Endesa Chile said.
Shares of Endesa Chile were up 0.6 percent on Monday afternoon, outpacing a 0.1 percent increase on Santiago's blue-chip IPSA stock index. (Reporting by Santiago newsroom; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Franklin Paul and Lisa Von Ahn)